BISMARCK, N.D. (KELO) — North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum has signed a bill into law to protect tribal cultures by codifying the federal Indian Child Welfare Act into state law.

The Act, enacted in 1978, gives preference to Native American families in foster care and adoption proceedings of Native children.

A handful of white families have claimed the law is based on race and is unconstitutional under the equal protection clause. They also said it puts the interests of tribes ahead of children. Lower courts have been split on the case. Supporters of the law include Native American leaders who have long championed it as a way to preserve Native families and culture.

A bill was introduced in South Dakota this session to create a task force to find solutions to the disproportionate number of Native children in the foster care system. However, the proposal failed in the House. Several tribes condemned the inaction of lawmakers to address the welfare of Native American children.