She is controversial for proposing that both assimilation and holding to ethnic traditions are the ways to contribute to creative culture and to a soul-based civility. She successfully helped to petition the Library of Congress, as well as worldwide psychoanalytic institutes, to rename their studies and categorizations formerly called, among other things, "psychology of the primitives," to respectful and descriptive names, according to ethnic group, religion, culture, etc.
Estés served as Governor's appointee to the Colorado State Grievance Board 1993-2006. She currently is a board member of Authors Guild, New York; an advisory board member for The National Writers Union, N.Y.; an advisory board member of The Coalition Against Censorship, NY; and as a board member of the Maya Angelou Minority Health Foundation at Wake Forest Medical School. She is an advisor to El Museo de las Americas, Colorado; a contributing editor to The Bloomsbury Review; and a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.
Estés, a former hard-scrabble welfare mother, is the recipient of numerous awards including the first Joseph Campbell Keeper of the Lore Award for her work as la cantadora; and for her written work, the Gradiva Award from the National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis; and The Catholic Press Association award for her writing. She received the Las Primeras Award, "the first of her kind" from the Mexican American Women's foundation, Washington D.C. She is a 2006 inductee to the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame.
"We are all los inmigrantes, the Soul is The First Immigrant: The Soul cannot be held back by any imaginary boundary drawn against it; not by mountain ranges, not by rivers, nor by human scorn. The Soul, goes everywhere, like an old woman in her right mind, going anywhere she wishes, saying whatever she wants, bending to mend whatever is within her reach. Wherever she goes, the Soul brings new life." from 'The Dangerous Old Woman'
"There is no ethnic group on the face of this earth that has not been slaughtered; viz Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Britons. When, after a conflict, the best balanced leaders who have a stake in the future of all persons, are bypassed, and instead power is seized by the angriest and most grudge-holding, whose greatest stake is in the past… without new consciousness, and without strong reconciling actions, thus erupts a horrible recycling of living out the least of what is human in this world." from "Letter To The Prince on the Anniversary of Kristallnacht"
"There are not two 'm's to governing, as many PolySci courses have taught: 'Money and Management.' There are three m's. The third one is Mercy. The third "M" constitutes the difference between a country and a corporation." from testimony before Federal Ways and Means Committee on Social Programs, Washington, D.C., 1996
"As artist-in-residence in schools, I find that whereas children used to dream bear, wolf, tiger as both friends and foes, and often… now, so so many children are dreaming Machine; gigantic stomping splints and walking piers of glittering mutant metal.... " from essay "Wild Wolf/ Wild Soul" in Comeback Wolves, eds G. Wockner, L. Prichett
"Nature and human beings are not separate. You can be sure that when the land and creatures are wounded by humans, that those humans are copying their own psychic wounds into the earth and animals as well; what is wounded and without thought, wounds others..." from essay "Massacre of the Dreamers"
"The wounding of land and creatures reaches to the dream world... and beyond it to impoverish the dreamers as well. Yet there is still time to intervene... but the time is right this instant..." ibid
"All strong souls first go to hell before they do the healing of the world they came here for. If we are lucky, we return to help those still trapped below." from the poem Abre La Puerta in 'Theatre of the Imagination' (Sounds True Audio), also for Kol Nidre at shul, http://bnaihavurah.org/Rabbi.htm
"Do not lose heart, we were made for these times..." from Letter To A Young Activist During Troubled Times
"The craft of questions, the craft of stories, the craft of the hands - all these are the making of something, and that something is soul. Anytime we feed soul, it guarantees increase." from Women Who Run With the Wolves (Ballantine/ Bertelsmann 1992, 1996) (p.14)
"Just because a woman is silent does not mean she agrees…" from The Dangerous Old Woman
"If logic were everything, all men would ride sidesaddle…" from Women Who Run With The Wolves
"Some people mistake being loving for being a sap. Quite the contrary, the most loving people are often the most fierce and the most acutely armed for battle... for they care about preserving and protecting poetry, symphonic song, ideas, the elements, creatures, inventions, hopes and dreams, dances and holiness... those goodly endeavors that cannot be allowed to perish from this earth, else humanity itself would perish..." from The Dangerous Old Woman
If you have never been called a defiant, incorrigible, impossible woman… have faith… there is yet time." from Women Who Run with the Wolves