Things That Matter

TSA Agent Accused Of Using Native American Woman’s Braids As ‘Reins’ And Says ‘Giddyup!’

A Native American says she’s “angry, humiliated” after a TSA agent grabbed her ponytails and told her to “Giddyup!” She is calling the agent out on Twitter. Tara Zhaabowkwe Houska is an indigenous rights activist who was returning home to Bemidji, Minnesota through Minneapolis-St. Paul International Aiport when a TSA agent described as a “middle-aged blonde woman” told her that she needed to pat down her traditional braids. Houska later recalled how “she pulled them behind my shoulders, laughed & said “giddyup!” as she snapped my braids like reins” in a tweet that has since gone viral. Houska says she is “angry, humiliated” because her hair is part of her spirit. “Your ‘fun’ hurt,” Houska indirectly told the agent through her followers.

When Houska told her that her actions dehumanized her, the agent replied to say, “Well it was just in fun, I’m sorry. Your hair is lovely.” Houska maintains that “that is NOT an apology and it is NOT okay.”

Tara Zhaabowkwe Houska tweeted about her uncomfortable, abusive experience with the federal employee.


“Going through @TSA at @mspairport, the agent said she needed to pat down my braids,” the indigenous climate change activist tweeted, adding, “She pulled them behind 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.”

Her followers are shocked. “What the f***??? I’m really sorry this happened to you,” tweeted one doctor.  Several Indigenous folks have offered their prayers to Houska, praying that “a balm wash over you whenever this incident comes to mind. Relax your shoulders. Feel your breathing, in and out over your upper lip. I will DM you. This must never happen again.” Non-native folks are also chiming in to express their horror.What the actual f***? I’m not native anything, and I’d find that seriously inappropriate just based on decency. I can only imagine what it’s like for a Native American to experience this! Disgusting behavior on that woman’s part,” tweeted one Mika Johnson.

Houska is highlighting how harmful it is when aggressors claim their racism is “just in fun.”

CREDIT: @KaitlinCurtice / TWITTER

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,” Houska followed up in a separate tweet. “Humiliating and demeaning other people is not fun. It’s an abuse of power. The ‘I’m joking,’ ‘it’s all in fun’ stuff is garbage talk,” added NBC journalist Margaret Larson.

Other’s are saying that this is “white privilege at its worst.” Not all middle-aged white folk are this tone-deaf. Well, if they didn’t grow up in America. One Copenhagen white man was shocked, tweeting, “The US society REALLY have some serious problems respecting people of colour or just being different. I really hope the US can get to a point where this is not OK. It is white privilege at its worst.”

In the end, Houska is being offered endless support by empaths in her feed.


The MSP Airport responded to her now-viral tweet to say, “We are so sorry to hear about your experience, Tara, and we’ll send this tweet along to @TSA leadership for follow-up. We’d also be happy to file a formal complaint on your behalf, if you DM us your contact information.” Tara responded to inform the official account that direct messaging isn’t available on their account but offered her email address, along with a curt, “Thank you for responding.” TSA’s publicity control Twitter account (AskTSA) also responded to the tweet to say, “We regret to hear that you had a bad experience at the security checkpoint. If you’re willing, please DM your email address, so that we may gather more details.”

“I’m so sorry you were treated that way, very grateful for your activism, and admire your compassion toward the numbskull TSA agent, wishing simply for better training as a remedy, you are a better person than many of us.  Love kindness & mad respect to you,” tweeted one follower. “Disgusting. This goes beyond unprofessional and directly to demeaning, humiliating and disgusting. Your employee needs to apologize publicly and be disciplined,” another horrified follower tweeted. 

Many are demanding this woman be fired. We’ll continue to update this story as it develops.

READ: A Woman’s Obsession With Hot Cheetos Just Got Her Into Some Hot Water With TSA

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at

Indigenous Purépecha Woman Gets Full Ride Scholarship To Attend Harvard

Things That Matter

Indigenous Purépecha Woman Gets Full Ride Scholarship To Attend Harvard

Maddie Meyer / Getty Images

In just a few months, college freshmen will be descending on their campuses across the country. One of these students is Elizabeth Esteban who is the first person from her indigenous tribe in Mexico to be accepted to an Ivy League school.

Elizabeth Esteban is going to Harvard and it is a major deal.

Esteban is a member of the Purépecha tribe, an indigenous community from Michoacán, Mexico. Esteban is the first member of her tribe to be accepted into an Ivy League university, where indigenous representation remains small. Esteban’s parents work as farm laborers in the eastern Coachella Valley in California.

“Well I felt proud and excited, every sort of emotion because I never would have believed that a person like me, would be accepted to a prestigious university,” Esteban told NBC News.

Not only was Esteban accepted into Harvard, a prestigious university, she also received a full-ride scholarship. Esteban’s family is part of a community of hundreds of Purépecha people who relocated to the easter Coachella Valley in search of work and a better life.

Esteban plans to study political science.

Dr. Ruiz Speaks with State of the Union Guest, Elizabeth from Desert Mirage High School.

Join me for a live conversation with my guest for tonight's State of the Union, Elizabeth from Desert Mirage High School!

Posted by Congressman Raul Ruiz, MD on Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Esteban wants to make a difference in her community. As an indigenous woman, Esteban wants to break barriers that are set on women in her community. She told NBC News that her community expects for women to stay home and be stay-at-home mothers.

The incoming Harvard freshmen was discouraged from applying to Harvard at one point because of her community’s unreliable internet connection. Esteban lives in a mobile home with her family in Mecca and struggled to complete course work. The internet went down in the middle of her Harvard interview and it almost prevented her from applying to the university.

“Well, I felt proud and excited, every sort of emotion because I never would have believed that a person like me, would be accepted to a prestigious university,” Esteban told NBC News about being accepted to Harvard on a full scholarship.

READ: California, Harvard, MIT File Lawsuits To Challenge Government’s International Student Visa Announcement

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at

Mexico City Could Soon Change Its Name To Better Embrace Its Indigenous Identity

Things That Matter

Mexico City Could Soon Change Its Name To Better Embrace Its Indigenous Identity

PEDRO PARDO/AFP via Getty Images

Mexico City is the oldest surviving capital city in all of the Americas. It also is one of only two that actually served as capitals of their Indigenous communities – the other being Quito, Ecuador. But much of that incredible history is washed over in history books, tourism advertisements, and the everyday hustle and bustle of a city of 21 million people.

Recently, city residents voted on a non-binding resolution that could see the city’s name changed back to it’s pre-Hispanic origin to help shine a light on its rich Indigenous history.

Mexico City could soon be renamed in honor of its pre-Hispanic identity.

A recent poll shows that 54% of chilangos (as residents of Mexico City are called) are in favor of changing the city’s official name from Ciudad de México to México-Tenochtitlán. In contrast, 42% of respondents said they didn’t support a name change while 4% said they they didn’t know.

Conducted earlier this month as Mexico City gears up to mark the 500th anniversary of the fall of the Aztec empire capital with a series of cultural events, the poll also asked respondents if they identified more as Mexicas, as Aztec people were also known, Spanish or mestizo (mixed indigenous and Spanish blood).

Mestizo was the most popular response, with 55% of respondents saying they identified as such while 37% saw themselves more as Mexicas. Only 4% identified as Spaniards and the same percentage said they didn’t know with whom they identified most.

The poll also touched on the city’s history.

The ancient city of Tenochtitlán.

The same poll also asked people if they thought that the 500th anniversary of the Spanish conquest of Tenochtitlán by Spanish conquistadoresshould be commemorated or forgotten, 80% chose the former option while just 16% opted for the latter.

Three-quarters of respondents said they preferred areas of the the capital where colonial-era architecture predominates, such as the historic center, while 24% said that they favored zones with modern architecture.

There are also numerous examples of pre-Hispanic architecture in Mexico City including the Templo Mayor, Tlatelolco and Cuicuilco archaeological sites.

Tenochtitlán was one of the world’s most advanced cities when the Spanish arrived.

Tenochtitlán, which means “place where prickly pears abound” in Náhuatl, was founded by the Mexica people in 1325 on an island located on Lake Texcoco. The legend goes that they decided to build a city on the island because they saw the omen they were seeking: an eagle devouring a snake while perched on a nopal.

At its peak, it was the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas. It subsequently became a cabecera of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. Today, the ruins of Tenochtitlán are in the historic center of the Mexican capital. The World Heritage Site of Xochimilco contains what remains of the geography (water, boats, floating gardens) of the Mexica capital.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at