TSA Agents Mistake Native American Religious Symbols for Contraband

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Successful lawsuit will add new training for TSA officers

A man carrying a wooden box was inconvenienced by TSA officers at the San Antonio International Airport. He was pulled aside so that the contents of the wooden box can be examined.

The traveler went on to plead with the officers to let him handle the items due to his beliefs and their delicate nature. The officers declined his offer and proceeded to mishandle the contents. The wooden box was carrying a bone whistle, eagle feather, feather fan and a gourd rattle. These items are believed to hold spiritual energy. They are major components of any Native American religious ceremony.

The man, identified as Iron Rope, was traveling back to South Dakota after attending a conference in south Texas. As this wasn’t the first time the Transportation Security Administration officers have mistreated and mishandled objects considered sacred, Mr. Rope teamed up with the Native American Church to file a lawsuit against the TSA.

The two parties settled the suit in late January. The terms of the settlement were:

• The Transportation Security Administration agreed to educate its officers on how to handle sacred items owned by Native Americans.

• An internal report would be published based on Native American religious items that TSA employees would handle.

• TSA employees from Denver, Phoenix, Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Omaha and Oklahoma City airports would review the report.

• The educational materials to be used by the Transportation Security Administration will instruct officers to respect Native Americans who profess to be carrying religious items. The materials will also instruct the officers to avoid touching and mishandling the sacred objects when not necessary.

In its statement, the Native American Church hoped that the lawsuit raised awareness for both its members and all Native Americans. The statement also went on to say that the relationship between the Transportation Security Administration and the Native Americans was on amend.

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