ARCATA, Calif. - Many students travel up and down the stairs every day inside Forbes Complex, the physical education building at Humboldt State University. They pass two walls full of photographs of former HSU athletes who earned prestige for themselves and their school.
Joe Giovannetti, a professor of Native American Studies at HSU since 1994, took his place among those in the university's Hall of Fame during halftime of the Lumberjacks' Oct. 9 homecoming football game.
The 49-year-old father of two hopes that young Americans of Native descent recognize that they, like him, can achieve their dreams. He was nominated by kinesiology professor Al Figone.
Giovannetti, a member of the Tolowa Tribe, was a former chairman of the Tolowa National Tribal Council from 1983-85. As a member of a federally recognized tribe on the Smith River Rancheria in Del Norte County, he has dual citizenship, like many Native Americans. He's lived his entire life in Eureka and comes from a long line of Native American athletes.
He was reared by his grandparents from infancy. His grandfather, Delmar Whipple Sr., also a member of Tolowa Tribe, was a big influence on his life. Whipple was a well-known baseball player, a semi-pro catcher with a "rifle arm." He played for Rolph Shipyards in Emeryville during World War I. Joe's brother and uncle also played baseball.
Giovannetti admits the Eureka High School baseball team was so loaded with talent he worried about even getting playing time. Several players from the Class of 1968 were signed by Major League teams. Some of the Loggers went on to play for the Eureka Post 212 American Legion Team and win the 1968 California State Championship.
He wound up running track and held the Logger record for the half mile for 23 years. His success continued at HSU. He held the school record in the half mile, or 880 yards, for 17 years with a time of 1: 51.2. It was broken in 1989. In 1971 he made the Division NCAA II and III (then known as the College Division) Finals in the 880 and again his senior year.
He's quick to say these were not small-time schools he was competing against. The Far Western Conference was one of the most powerful non-scholarship conferences in the country in track.
Giovannetti teaches many diverse Native American Studies classes. This semester he is teaching Indian Country Today (no relation to the publication), Indian Cultures of California, Native American Psychology, and Introduction to Native American Studies. In the fall he plans a new course, The Imagery of Indians.
He has been a singer for the Tolowa dancers for six years, including five consecutive years at the HSU pow wow and was a dancer for 20 years before that. The group has performed at state parks, American Indian mental health conferences, Indian Child Welfare Conferences, on California Indian Day (the last weekend of September), and for the Daughters of the American Revolution. They have also gave a dance demonstration at the Northwest Intertribal Elders Gathering since 1983.
Giovannetti is working on a detailed book listing more than 600 Major League Baseball players of Native ancestry called "Warriors Of The Diamond" to be released in two volumes. Visit Professor Giovannetti on his web site at http://www.humboldt.edu/~jmg2.