A Native American woman is standing up for herself after she says she was disrespected by a TSA agent at airport security earlier this week.
Tara Houska was at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport on Monday when she was put in an uncomfortable situation while undergoing a pat-down at security, she wrote on Twitter Monday.
She explained that the TSA agent said “she needed to pat down my braids,” to which Houska complied.
Then, however, Houska said the agent “pulled [the braids] behind my shoulder, laughed & said ‘giddyup!’ as she snapped my braids like reins.”
Houska added that as “a Native woman”, she felt “angry” and “humiliated” by the situation.
“My hair is part of my spirit…Your ‘fun’ hurt,” she wrote.
Going through @TSA at @mspairport, the agent said she needed to pat down my braids. She pulled them behind my shoulders, laughed & said “giddyup!” as she snapped my braids like reins.— tara houska (@zhaabowekwe) January 13, 2020
My hair is part of my spirit. I am a Native woman. I am angry, humiliated. Your “fun” hurt.
While Houska tried to explain to the “middle-aged blonde woman who had casually used her authority to dehumanize and disrespect [her]” how she felt, she did not receive the response she was looking for.
“‘Well it was just in fun, I’m sorry. Your hair is lovely,'” Houska recalled as the woman’s response. “That is NOT an apology and it is NOT okay.”
TSA told PEOPLE in a statement that it had been “made aware of allegations made by a traveler about her screening experience at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Monday morning,” and that officials investigated the incident Tuesday afternoon.
To further understand the situation, Cliff Van Leuven, TSA’s Federal Security Director for Minnesota, reached out to Houska.
Van Leuven apologized to her for the “insensitive” comment and actions that occurred during the screening, the statement said.
“TSA holds its employees to the highest standards of professional conduct and any type of improper behavior is taken seriously,” it continued.
Van Leuven sent an additional email to the airport’s TSA agents, fully owning up to Monday’s incident.
“Did it actually happen? Yes. Exactly as described? Yes,” Van Leuven wrote in the email, which was obtained by PEOPLE.
He continued that during his “very pleasant” phone call with Houska, she asked that TSA “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.”
As a frequent traveler, Houska told Van Leuven, she has never had an issue in Minnesota, which is why the incident took her by “surprise.”
“We all make mistakes,” he wrote in the email. “Treating the public we are sworn to serve and protect with dignity and respect is our calling — every passenger, every day. We’ll learn from this…”
After speaking with Van Leuven and seeing TSA’s statement, Houska said she felt the response was a “good resolution from a bad situation.”
Miigwech for uplifting this @kare11 & miigwech @TSA for being responsive & professional. My braids are not reins, I should be treated with dignity, as should everyone else.— tara houska (@zhaabowekwe) January 15, 2020
Good resolution from a bad situation. We need more education & empathy for one another. #TeachingMoment https://t.co/uFRMvqtSY7
“We need more education & empathy for one another,” she wrote on Twitter, adding that she found the situation to be a “teaching moment.”
“I should be treated with dignity, as should everyone else,” Houska wrote.