Shell mounds have not been investigated as prominent ritual features in southern California, despite evidence to the contrary. The largest extant shell mound in the region is on Santa Cruz Island, measures 270 by 210 m (44,532 m² in area), is 8 m higher than the terrace it rests on, is covered with 50 house depressions, and dates to 6000–2500 B.P. In the 1920s, three cemeteries were excavated at the top of El Montón; one young woman stood out among the over 200 individuals in that she was buried with 157 stone effigies. Analysis of multiple lines of evidence, including stratigraphic profiles of features, 85 radiocarbon dates, ground penetrating radar, and mortuary data, supports my claim that the mound was a persistent place where early visitors had significant feasts, constructed dwellings, buried their dead, and performed ceremonies where select groups of infants, children, and adults were revered. These mortuary rites conveyed the symbolic power of the place and created a history of events that became part of a mythical and real past that was repeatedly visited, modified, and (re)interpreted as social relationships were reinforced. This study supports the idea that shell mounds are socially constructed landscapes, not just accumulations of refuse.