TSA head apologizes to Ojibwe woman for screening officer's disrespectful behavior

Updated: Jan. 14, 5:54 p.m. | Posted: Jan. 13, 7:52 p.m.

The head of the Transportation Security Administration in Minnesota has apologized to an Indigenous rights activist after she voiced concerns about disrespectful treatment at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Tara Houska is Ojibwe and wears her hair in long braids. While heading home to Bemidji, Minn., Monday morning, Houska said a TSA officer pulled on her braids as if they were horse reins and said "giddyup."

Houska said she doesn't want the agent to be fired, but the TSA needs to improve its training.

"Just because you don’t think it's racist or just because you don't think it's offensive doesn't mean that other people don't feel that way,” Houska said. “And you should be respectful when you're invading somebody's body space. It's an invasive process, period.”

The TSA said its federal security director for Minnesota, Cliff Van Leuven, reached out to Houska and apologized. In an email to TSA employees, Van Leuven said the incident happened as Houska described. On Monday, the TSA had said it was reviewing security video from the checkpoint.

“Treating the public we are sworn to serve and protect with dignity and respect is our calling — every passenger, every day,” he said. “We’ll learn from this.”

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