circa 1830, Maker unknown. Gift of the Guard family, 1984. Te Papa
Betty Guard’s broken comb is a symbol of early conflict between Māori and Europeans, fuelled by cultural misunderstanding.
In 1834, the Guard family was shipwrecked off Taranaki en route to their Marlborough Sounds whaling station. People from the local tribe attacked the stranded party, killing 12 people and capturing 16, including Betty. The comb saved her life when she was hit on the head.
Betty’s husband, John, was released after promising to fetch gunpowder as ransom. Instead, he returned with soldiers, who attacked the tribe – the first time that the British Army fired on Māori. Oaoiti, the man who had protected Betty and her children, was brutally assaulted. Some witnesses said that Betty had been living happily as his wife.