In 1990 Ron Therriaut, former chairman of the Flathead Indian reservation in Montana and a professor at the Salish and Kootenai college, visited Sandpoint to speak on Salish history and culture. He came in support of the Kalispelum Project which invited Kalispel spokespersons to speak on the past and future role of their people in North Idaho.
Ron was a delight to get to know, using humor to win over the teachers and administrators who came nervously to hear for the first time a distinguished Kalispel educator speak in our small town. It was a difficult time, for the Aryan Nation was capturing national headlines with their radical ideology. Rumors were circulating that skinheads might show up to disrupt events featuring non-white speakers. Yet all went well, and Ron agreed to present a second lecture at the Magnolia Center in the following months. Over the years that followed I came to respect Ron as a mentor in understanding the culture of the Kalispel and Kootenai. It was especially important to me, because I was drafting a history of the Idaho Kalispel who were forced to relocate from their homes on Lake Pend Oreille. Some went downriver to the Usk reservation, and some went upriver to join relatives on the Flathead reservation.
Ron Therriault retired from the army in 1974, graduating from Antioch college five years later. From 1986-87 he served as the tribal chairman on the Flathead reservation. Later, he was chosen as an instructor at the Salish and Kootenai college on the Flathead reservation. And soon after delivering his Sandpoint talks, he became a visiting professor at the University of Montana, Missoula.