“Our ancestors have lived in Death Valley since before written time. The Timbisha people identify ourselves by our art, our being, our obligation to take care of the lands and to continue our traditions and customs. The Timbisha Shoshone Tribe is very distressed about the actions of this doctor, who took it upon himself to destroy a large prehistoric site here in Death Valley National Park, the homelands of the Timbisha Shoshone. Our ancestors left their messages here, for their future familes and the general public to enjoy and cherish. When theft occurs, it not only hurts the Tribe, but everybody.” (Barbara Durham, historic preservation officer, Timbisha Shoshone Tribe)
Another California physician has managed to embarrass his profession. This particular lab coat idiot confessed to pilfering thousands upon thousands of invaluable, cultural artifacts from two protected national lands – Humbolt Toiyabe National Forest and Death Valley National Park.
Bourne, a 59-year-old anesthesiologist who lives in Mammoth Lakes, formally entered a guilty plea on August 15, according to U.S. Attorney Phillip Talbert.
Investigators revealed that Bourne had been stealing artifacts since 1994. He was ordered to return an estimated 20,000 archaeological pieces.
According to the court record, in January 2011, Bourne damaged a specific prehistoric site in Death Valley National Park and removed a native American tool carved from a bighorn sheep horn, as well as ancient stone tablets, which were found in his home.
Death Valley is the homeland of the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe. The tribe has had a strong impact on the history, culture, and ecology there, in partnership with the National Park Service.
“It feels great to have a conviction in this major case!” Death Valley Superintendent Mike Reynolds.
Bad-boy Bourne could get 2 years in prison and a $400,000 fine, in addition to the $250,000 he has already paid. He is scheduled to be sentenced on November 7 in U.S. District Court. He is banned from all national parks.
(The successful prosecution of this case – as well as the return of the artifacts to their respective parks – is the result of an investigation by the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service.)