TSA investigating after Native American woman told to 'giddy up' while having hair pulled by agent

The agent claimed she did it "just for fun".
The agent claimed she did it "just for fun". Photo credit: Getty Images

The US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has apologised to a Native American passenger who was told to "giddy up" while an airport official "snapped her hair like reins".

Tara Houska, who is an indigenous rights activist and lawyer, posted the details of the incident that took place at Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport on Monday (local time).

"Going through TSA at Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport, the agent said she needed to pat down my braids. She pulled them behind my shoulders, laughed and said 'giddyup!' as she snapped my braids like reins," Houska said on Twitter.

"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 dehumanise 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."

In an email to local media, Federal Security Director Cliff Van Leuven left no doubt that a mistake had been made.

"Did it actually happen? Yes. Exactly as described? Yes." Van Leuven said.

"I apologised 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."

A thorough investigation has been launched and the TSA has said it "holds its employees to the highest standards of professional conduct".

Houska was returning home from Washington DC, where she joined Jane Fonda in a protest against climate change.