Kimberley Sweet, a Magistrate Judge in Kenai and a former Kenaitze Tribal Court Chief Judge, was recently honored for her public service.
Sweet, a Tribal Member, received the 2021 Jay Rabinowitz Public Service Award, presented by the Alaska Bar Foundation. The award was presented during the Alaska Bar Association’s virtual annual meeting in September.
The award honors an individual whose life work demonstrates a commitment to public service in Alaska.
In her remarks accepting the award, Sweet said that a piece of advice from a Tribal Elder has guided her work.
“My great uncle always used to say that everything that you put your hand to do, remember, it will affect generations to come. It’s not just you, it’s everybody in your future. And I’ve always taken that to heart,” Sweet said.
Nikole Nelson, Executive Director of the Alaska Legal Services Corporation, presented the award.
“She is incredibly smart, dedicated to improving the lives of those around her, and unafraid to speak the truth – even when it is inconvenient,” Nelson said.
Nelson noted Sweet’s service with the Kenaitze Tribal Court, her extensive work with the foster care system, and her service on numerous advisory committees. As the Kenaitze Tribal Court’s Chief Judge, Sweet was instrumental in the formation of the joint-jurisdiction Henu Community Wellness Court. Sweet also served as co-lead negotiator for the state’s Indian Child Welfare Compact, which seeks to address the over-representation of Alaska Native children in the state foster system due to systemic inequalities.
“She has consistently dedicated hours to showing up to help educate our state and national leaders about the need to listen to and include Alaska Native voices, and how by doing so, we would all be better off,” Nelson said.
Nelson noted Sweet’s commitment to serving the needs of vulnerable children during her time as a Kenaitze Tribal Court Judge. Sweet has also served as a foster parent herself, opening her home to seven foster children over the past decade.
“She now serves our community as a magistrate judge, and I can say that Kim has given her heart and soul to bettering the lives of those around her,” Nelson said.
Sweet said she was honored and humbled by the recognition, and credited others for the support and mentorship she’s had over the years.
“It’s just part of being who we are as a people and as a community,” Sweet said. “It’s not anything that I do that is particularly better than anyone else, it’s the support of all of our community members. All of those (accomplishments), I can’t take ownership of them all on my own. I’ve had great teams everywhere I’ve gone.”
Sweet credited “lots of dedicated people who made all of those things happen.”
Sweet said she’s also been inspired by her mother, Alexandra “Sasha” Lindgren, who recently passed away.
“I didn’t realize how much of my mother came forward in me, as far as being dedicated to our community, until she passed, and I’ve been receiving so many things from Elders and youth on how much she did for them,” Sweet said. “I want to continue to walk that walk that she taught me, and thanks to all of the people who have listened and moved forward with me in a good way.”
In 2019, Sweet was honored by the Alaska Bar Association with the Judge Nora Guinn award, which recognizes an individual Alaskan who has made an extraordinary or sustained effort to assist Alaska’s rural residents, especially its Alaska Native population, overcome language and cultural barriers to obtaining justice through the legal system.