Erika Engle

Meyer wins accolades
for building a place
for Hawaiian art

Native Books/Na Mea Hawaii owner Maile Meyer received the 2005 Native Hawaiian Business of the Year Award yesterday from American Savings Bank.

"We wanted to recognize Native Books/Na Mea Hawaii for its contributions to the local community," said Anna Marie Springer, senior vice president and community liaison at American Savings.

"This is a business that promotes made-in-Hawaii products, historically correct and culturally sensitive books by local authors and fine art made by Native Hawaiian artists."

The business also promotes pride and respect for Hawaiians and their unique culture, said Springer.

Meyer accepted the award during a presentation at the fourth annual conference of the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement and brought her employees up to the dais for recognition.

It is the second year the bank has presented the award in recognition of "Native Hawaiian businesses that are not only successful in their own right, but who give back to the community by helping to build the economy and the community and by volunteering their time," said Dawn Dunbar, American Savings corporate communications manager.

Criteria for winning included innovation by the business, community need for the business, promotion of Native Hawaiian values, job generation, profitability and giving back to the community, Dunbar said.

The store has been called Native Books/Na Mea for two years and previously was called Native Books and Beautiful Things.

The retail store offers classes in and demonstrations of various aspects of Hawaiian culture, holds readings of books for group discussion, provides artist display areas and stages weekend entertainment at Ward Warehouse.

A sister downtown store closed after two years after lease terms could not be reached. Meyer is looking forward to reopening in the downtown area, which she expects will happen soon.

Today, as it does each year, the store will mark the birthday of Hawaii's last reigning monarch, Queen Liliuokalani. Nola Nahulu and Puanani Higgins will sing from "The Queen's Songbook" and read from the book "I Knew Queen Liliuokalani," from noon to 1 p.m.

During a similar event one year, a reading from the book "Under the Queen" drew an emotional response from an elderly Caucasian woman who was still tearful when Meyer approached her after the reading.

"I asked her how she was doing. She grabbed my hand and said, 'I knew there was some other story that my father couldn't tell me,'" Meyer said. The woman was a descendant of one of the provisional government leaders who overthrew Liliuokalani.

"Here was this 80-plus-year-old lady who finally had some courage to seek out some other input," said Meyer.

"With everything that's happening, no matter what happens with (the Akaka Bill), it's going to be painful, one way or the other. Pain is productive -- well, it can be. If we take on a victim mentality, how can we model something different to the Western world?" she said.

"It just causes us to go to our own solutions as Hawaiians. ... It's really a soul-searching time for all of us," Meyer said.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: eengle@starbulletin.com

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