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On any given weekend, you might find yourself on a train platform, surrounded by sports fans wearing “Native American” headdresses and “war paint,” and wavinginflatable tomahawks. They’ll be wearing apparel purchased from the team’s online store (the “Trading Post”), where you can also buy a “Little Big Chief” mascot. During the event, supporters will chant the Tomahawk Chop to get into the spirit of things, and afterward, perhaps they’ll rehash the game on the team’s message boards (“The Tribe”).
No, this isn’t the Atlanta Braves. It’s not the Washington Redskins. This is a rugby match for the Exeter Chiefs. And it evokes Britain’s forgotten imperial American past.
The Exeter Chiefs were called the Exeter Rugby Club until 1999, when they rebranded themselves. They also have an A-League team that (you might have guessed) is named the Braves. The Chiefs’ name and their apparel are problems because they reference the practice of scalping, they erase Native Americans today, and they evoke a history of violent settler colonialism. And it’s an imperial history that belongs to Great Britain as much as the United States. [continue reading]