Family, Friends Reflect On Citizen’s Life
By: Liz Gray/Reporter
OKMULGEE, Oklahoma — As Phillip Deere and Sheri Tiger reminisced about Kintv Deere in the living room of Phillip’s home, it felt as though she would walk through the door at any moment and join the conversation.
The house is warm and the rhythmic sound of the washing machine in the back creates a sense of coziness.
A Christmas tree is set up in the corner on a table with presents underneath. A month has passed since Kintv passed away.
“I used to tell my kids, ‘I can prepare you for life but I can’t prepare you for mourning,’ ” Phillip said.
He was hesitant at first to talk about the loss of his daughter, but once he was asked about the person Kintv was, he and Sheri started to paint a portrait of the student, the teacher and the friend she was during her 19 years.
“She always wanted to be a part of everything as far as groups,” Sheri said.
Connection to others was almost like a hobby for Kintv, whenever she would meet someone new, she would try and track down if there was any relation.
“She always wanted to know where she came from, who her people were…she was all into her family tree,” she said.
Kintv’s family tree branches out to recognizable Muscogee (Creek) names, extending out as far as Chitto Harjo to being rooted from Phillip Deere of AIM status.
She kept her genealogy locked away in her memory, along with scraps of paper here and there and never forgot a face.
She was attending the College of the Muscogee Nation for Gaming and Native American Studies, but what she really enjoyed was teaching the Mvskoke language.
She would quiz her nieces and nephews about everyday objects, like body parts.
“Her nephew would go, ‘dang Kintv, how many body parts do I have?” Sheri said.
Phillip said though Kintv held traditional Mvskoke values and participated in her ceremonial ground, she was open-minded and would attend church.
She was also an active member of the Mvskoke Nation Youth Council.
“She embodied youth council to me,” youth council member Alexis McHenry said. “She lived and breathed empowering Mvskoke youth and bringing back our traditions to Mvskoke Youth.”
Kintv was memorable in many ways to the people who are with MNYS, her genuine helpfulness stood out the most.
Claudia McHenry remembered conversations regarding language.
“It wasn’t like you were being corrected or it wasn’t like she placed her power of how much she knows over you,” Claudia said. “It was refreshing.”
Rachel Sourjohn got emotional talking about the spiritual loss for MNYS as well as a big part of the Nation.
“You don’t expect our young people to pass away, it did feel like a light had gone out of our youth council,” Rachel said.
Nancy Mason said it was someone she never would have expected in such a circumstance.
Phillip explains where his emotions are in an anecdote about a conversation with Kintv’s mom, Joyce, who passed away in 2016.
The family had just suffered the loss of a loved one two weeks before.
He had said to Joyce that he guessed the hard part was over.
“She said ‘no, the hard part is not over with,’ ” he said. “I said, ‘what is the hard part?”
“She said ‘going on living without him,’ and that’s where we’re at today.”
He and Sheri share their frustration in the preventability of Kintv’s death.
Kintv had been found unresponsive in front of the CMN dorms in the early morning of Kintv’s 19th birthday, Nov. 9.
Phillip said a student had found her passed out in a vehicle while walking to school and continues to question why security had not checked on the vehicle sitting in front of the laundry room by itself.
“It’s hard to point fingers…its not going to bring her back,” he said. “We’ve got to learn to move on but it’s going to be hard.”
Kintv had been having trouble coping with the loss of her mother and had recently turned to drinking.
Her dad had talked to her and she had decided to try to have fun without partaking in drinking alcohol.
Sheri said perhaps it was peer pressure that made Kintv to decide to drink that night.
“She knew she had plans the next day,” she said.
Phillip said he has gotten frustrated with his daughter not being around anymore.
“Everyone keeps saying it’s gonna get better, she’s in a better place,” he said. “The bottom line is nobody knows where she’s at. How can it get better?”
He said he has a hard time sleeping, but when he finds himself lying on the couch under her picture, he feels at peace.
“I think she’s just watching me, maybe she’s comforting me.”