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An American Indian tribe is suing the Union Pacific Railroad and seven other landholders, claiming the companies stole land in vast stretches of the west in violation of an 1860s treaty with the U.S. government.

The civil lawsuit, filed on behalf of the Western Shoshone National Council, Chief Raymond Yowell and six national council members, seeks a declaration that the Western Shoshone nation holds title to land, minerals and water in so-called 'checkerboard' lands the government granted to the railroad in the 19th century. It was filed Jan.9 in a U.S. District Court in Reno by lawyer Robert Hager.

The defendants, in addition to Union Pacific Railroad, are BNSF Railroad Co., Newmont Gold Co., Barrick Goldstrike Mines Inc., Glamis Gold Inc., Nevada Land Resource Co., Sierra Pacific Power Co. and Idaho Power Co.

The lawsuit would void the transfer by the United States from 1862 to 1869 of millions of acres of land to the Union Pacific Railroad Co., and attempt to recover profits from the sale, exchange, lease, development and other uses of those lands, Hager said in a statement.

The United States was not named as a defendant, although Hager, on behalf of the Western Shoshones, has sued to stop the government from developing a planned nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

[Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen, 1-11-06, from Associated Press report]