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'Giddy-up!': TSA agent snaps Native American woman's braids like reins during pat-down

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The agency has apologized for the incident

Tara Houska (Image source: The Independent video screenshot)

A Native American woman has received an apology from the Transportation Security Administration, after she says an agent snapped her hair braids like horse reins and laughed while telling her to "giddy-up" during a pat-down at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport earlier this week.

What are the details?

Tara Houska wrote on Twitter Monday, "Going through @TSA at @mspairport, the agent said she needed to pat my shoulders, laughed & said 'giddyup!' as she snapped my braids like reins. My hair is part of my spirit. I am a Native woman. I am angry, humiliated. Your 'fun' hurt."

She added, "When I informed the middle-aged blonde woman who had casually used her authority to dehumanize and disrespect me, she said 'Well it was just in fun, I'm sorry. Your hair is lovely.' That is NOT an apology and it is NOT okay."

According to The Washington Post, "Houska is an attorney and indigenous rights activist who was in Minnesota to protest the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline project." The outlet noted that "she had flown from Washington, D.C., where she participated in the Fire Drill Friday climate protest" led by actress and activist Jane Fonda.

How did TSA respond?

In an email to KARE-TV from TSA's public affairs department, Federal Security Director Cliff Van Leuven was quoted as telling TSA employees of the incident, "Did it actually happen? Yes. Exactly as described? Yes."

Van Leuven said he spoke with Houska the day after the incident: "I apologized for how she was treated during the screening of her braids — and we had a very pleasant conversation. She reiterated that she doesn't want the Officer to get in trouble, but she is hoping we'll take the chance to continue to educate our staff about the many Native American Tribes/Bands in our state and region to better understand their culture."

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