Skookum, cultus, hyack, saltchuck, klahowya, tillicum: It is in words like these that the last vestiges of a lost British Columbian language remain. It was known as "Chinook." Its use today is mainly confined to colloquialisms, and place names like Boston Bar, Canim Lake, Illahee Mountain, Snass Creek, and Skookumchuck. It began as a trading jargon, but it soon evolved into a distinct West Coast tongue. Down through the years, as many as a quarter of a million people relied on it. Chinook was an everyday necessity. A Voice Great Within Us consists of an introductory essay by Glavin exploring the development and spread of Chinook throughout the West Coast, and the place it continues to have in our history; the Chinook poem, "Rain Language"; Lillard's own essay on the part that Chinook played in his own life and exploration of British Columbia. In addition, A Voice Great Within Us includes a lexicon containing hundreds of Chinook words and expressions and a map and gazetteer of British Columbia, showing eighty Chinook place names in this province. A Voice Great Within Us is number 7 in the Transmontanus series.
Charles Lillard grew up and was educated in Alaska. In his lifetime, he published several poetry books, edited many historical publications, including The Malahat Review and wrote extensively on the history of British Columbia. He passed away on March 27, 1997 leaving his collaborator Terry Glavin to finish A Voice Great Within Us, number 7 in the Transmontanus series.