The TSA apologized after an agent pulled a Native American passenger's braid and said "giddyup!" during a pat down

acollman@businessinsider.com (Ashley Collman)
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Molly Riley/Reuters

  • Native American woman Tara Houska says a TSA agent grabbed her braids, whipped them like reins and said "giddyup" while she was going through security at the Minneapolis airport on Monday.

  • A TSA official apologized to Houska for the incident, and released a statement saying "improper behavior is taken seriously" by the agency.

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The Transportation Security Administration was forced to issue an apology on Tuesday after a Native American woman described on Twitter a humiliating experience going through security at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport.

Tara Houska, an Ojibwe native and prominent attorney and activist, said her braids set off the scanners, and an agent pulled her aside to do a pat down.

While searching her braids, Houska said the woman grabbed them, pulled them behind her head, and whipped them like reins before laughing and saying "giddyup!"

Houska said she felt "angry" and "humiliated." She said she told the agent that she was not OK with how she "casually used her authority to dehumanize and disrespect me."

In response, the agent said she was sorry and never meant to offend her.

"Well it was just in fun, I'm sorry. Your hair is lovely," the agent said, according to Houska.

Houska said she was not satisfied with this response.

After her story got picked up by local and national outlets, the TSA issued a response.

TSA's federal security director for Minnesota Cliff Van Leuven told the Star Tribune that the incident was investigated and that he spoke to Houska and apologized for the officer's actions and comment.

"TSA holds its employees to the highest standards of professional conduct and any type of improper behavior is taken seriously," the agency said in a statement.

Houska told the Bemidji Pioneer that the agent had not been fired, but that it was never her intention to cause that.

"The way that I personally felt about the situation was that I didn't want the employee to be fired because I didn't want that person to (be) bitter and then for no one to learn anything," Houska told the newspaper. "I feel when it comes to empathy, people really lack that for each other, and that's not a good thing."

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