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Douglaston man seeks end to Navajo, Hopi hardship

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But amid all the bustle inside and around a Northern Boulevard coffee shop, Douglaston resident Dan Goldman wears an unusually calm countenance.His visage reflects a patience likely acquired during his extensive travels to Navajo and Hopi reservations in Northern Arizona, whose residents are imbued with what he describes as an innate sense of spirituality --and whose plight he has worked to alleviate with fund-raising efforts rooted in the Douglaston area."I was captivated by their spirituality," Goldman said after politely plucking two chairs from a table. "Everything about them is grounded in spirituality."A commercial still-life photographer for 25 years, Goldman first came across the Hopi and Navajo in work-related travels eight years ago. Trained to observe his surroundings, his eyes were drawn to both the natural beauty of the landscape and the destruction wrought by coal and uranium strip mining in the area.Goldman said he bonded quickly with the American Indians, who he said wanted to live a traditional life but were forced to work for the very mining companies whose presence they deplored in order to stay alive.He said the tribes have no choice -and no sovereignty -because the federal government's position is that they only own the topsoil of their land, not what's beneath.The mining "is killing the earth and the people" alike, Goldman said grimly, having worked on a documentary about their condition and having spent a week at a time living there. "The deck is stacked against them."Despite their hardships, the tribes have important lessons to offer America about ecological sustainability, the Douglaston resident said."As a father of two, I think about future generations and about what we are doing to the country ecologically," Goldman said, leaning intently.In an effort to raise awareness about the Navajo and Hopi as well as their message, Goldman has been sponsoring donation drives in the area to send supplies and money clear across the country for the past five years.He has enlisted an impressive array of groups for the cause: St. Anastasia's Church, the Community Church of Douglaston, Bryce Rea Realty, PS 98, MS 67 and IS 266 have all pitched in. Goldman also sells handcrafted Hopi jewelry to friends, with the proceeds going directly to the Hopi producers."I reach out to my community, and they respond," Goldman said with satisfaction.His wife, too, has helped, becoming the household breadwinner as he took a break from his career to focus on his outreach efforts. "She has been very supportive and believes in what I am doing," he said.So does Goldman. In addition to the Hopi and Navajo, he connected just a year ago with the Lakota, who are based out of South Dakota, through a progressive radio outlet in the city. He now has plans to visit the reservation and produce another documentary, which, he says, is the best way to highlight the situation of all the tribes."I'm not this white guy who wants to be a Hopi," Goldman said at one point. "I just want to honor them, and the best way I can do that is by learning about them."Reach reporter M. Junaid Alam by e-mail at malam@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext 174.

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