How are we progressing as a nation?

That question looms large today as we mark 179 years since the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi Day.

It's a complicated query, covering issues such as equality, fairness, identity, the acknowledgement of past wrongs, as well as our hopes for the future.

Assessments of how much progress we have made in these areas are subjective, and this shapes the way we mark our national day.

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For some, February 6 is simply a day off work, for others it is a chance to celebrate the anniversary of the signing of what many believe is the country's founding document.

It is also a time to protest the wrongs of the past and to remind those in power that there is still some way to go.

Those opposing elements - protest and celebration, unity and division - make for a complex mix when it comes to forming a sense of nationhood.

But that's as it should be.

We shouldn't blindly celebrate nationhood, as some nations do, without asking ourselves uncomfortable questions about our past, our present and our future.

Doing so ensures our sense of national identity is evolving, and that we are working towards a better future.

Ultimately, it's not certain that the complex issues surrounding the Treaty of Waitangi will ever be fully resolved but, hopefully, we are making progress.