La Ronde removes carousel cowboy horse showing Indigenous man's head in bag

Jessica Hernandez spotted the horse on a La Ronde merry-go-round, carrying an offensive depiction of an Indigenous man's head in a bag hanging off the saddle.

Kahnawake resident says others made complaints 2 years ago but nothing was done until now

A La Ronde spokesperson couldn't say how long the ride has been a part of the amusement park, which opened in 1967 as part of Expo 67. (Six Flags)

Jessica Hernandez says she'd heard of a particular horse on a La Ronde merry-go-round that carried an offensive depiction of an Indigenous man's head in a bag hanging off the saddle, but had not seen it for herself. 

Yet there it still was Wednesday, when Hernandez went to the Six Flags amusement park in Montreal with her family. 

"I saw it and I said, 'Oh my god'," Hernandez told CBC News Thursday in Kahnawake, where she lives. 

She said she'd been told complaints about the ride were made to the park a couple years ago and that clearly nothing had been done about them.

Kahnawake resident Jessica Hernandez posted to social media after she spotted offensive imagery on a merry-go-round at La Ronde. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)
"It's not the representation I want to see of an Indigenous person, nor is it of any race. Those are things that you just shouldn't see, especially now," Hernandez said.

She snapped a pic of the black carousel horse with the First Nations head and a staff with feathers on it, and posted it to Facebook and Twitter, where it was soon widely shared. 

La Ronde removes horse

Hernandez spotted the horse on the merry-go-round, which depicted an aboriginal person's head inside a bag on the back of the saddle. (Submitted)
La Ronde responded to a request for comment from CBC News, saying it had already taken "action to remove it." 

"We were recently made aware of an offensive symbol on one of our rides," communications manager Julie Perron said in an email. 

"It was never our intent to offend any of our guests and we will ensure that no other such symbol is found in our park."

Hernandez, who is Indigenous herself, says she knows the type of racist imagery well.

"It's a problem that people aren't being properly educated on, what the symbols really mean. For us, we're taught that because we live it," she said.

'We have to draw the line somewhere'

She says the ride may hail from "a time where people used to easily joke about cowboys and Indians, and we all know when in history the head or the scalp of an Indian was worth money."

But it doesn't change how dehumanizing it is, Hernandez said, adding she couldn't understand why nothing had been done about it until now. 

Perron, of La Ronde, did not say how long the ride has been at the park, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. It was established the year of Expo 67.

Hernandez said she didn't immediately say anything about the horse on the merry-go-round to her children, who had moved on to another ride when she was taking the pictures, but she is planning on explaining to them how those depictions of Indigenous people are not acceptable. 

"I know it's a big issue, even at Halloween, to see images similar to this. We have to draw the line somewhere," Hernandez said. 

with files from Sarah Leavitt