Thomas Ridley Beaded Scabbard

Written by: Mark Ford
Photography: Thomas Ridley

Published in: Whispering Wind Magazine Lakota Style Fully Beaded 7th Calvary Saber by artist Thomas Ridley Ute

Thomas Ridley born and raised in Whiterocks (one word) Utah (Northern Ute Reservation) is a Chicken Dancer and Ute Mountain Ute (per Thomas) Tribe from Towaco, Colorado. He recently posted a beaded cavalry saber case on his social media page that showcased his talents. Thomas often creates period-correct articles for sale in Rapid City, South Dakota. His pieces can be found at the iconic two-story historic store, . This store sets the bar for premium Native American made, historically accurate articles. Thomas has been beading off and on since 2008 and learned his craft from his grandma Ginger.The piece featured here and is a fully beaded 7th calvary saber. Mr. Ridley acquired his sword in a silver smith shop that does re-enactments for people. There are several similar sabers sold online and with a little shopping an interested buyer can find their own saber at a decent price. Beware of swords listed as authentic, they are hard to come by. According to Wikipedia; the model 1860 Light Cavalry Saber known as the M1862 is a long sword made of steel and brass, used by US cavalry from the American Civil War until the end of the Indian wars; some were still in use during the Spanish-American War. It was 41 inches (104 cm) long with 35 by 1 in (88.9 by 2.5 cm) blade and weighed 2 lbs 4 oz (1.0 kg) alone or 3 lb 10 oz (1.6 kg) with iron scabbard. “it had a brass guard, leather wrapped grip and steel scabbard.” By the end of the Civil War over 300,000 1860 sabers had been produced.Before beading Thomas wrapped the sheath in soft smoked deer hide. The beads are applied via the traditional wrapping technique. The beads are Italian glass beads from the late 1800’s size 11. The rows of wrapped beads are secured periodically to ensure they stay in place. Note: There is a good YouTube video on how to bead in this style entitled “Beaded Wrapped Rope Tutorial” dated Oct 12, 2018 by L Badoni. The color scheme is done in Northern Plains Tribe hues, earth tone reds, green, blue, black, yellow and white. Thomas also decorated sections the sheath with fringe and brass trade beads.According to Thomas, “The sword has meaning behind it. The Lakota people from Pine Ridge, South Dakota would have these after a battle between them and troops that were coming through the Black Hills. Some might acquire a sword that was dropped while the owner was fleeing, or another scenario would be a warrior took the life of a soldier and acquired what the enemy had on him. In Lakota you would say ‘Mila Huska’, meaning Long Knives.”For this author his favorite articles are the ones that showcase Indigenous ingenuity. When an artist retrofits either a found object or everyday article into a decorative addition to their regalia. A few favorites have been dancers who adorn a top hat or a Calvary coat. Wearing these pieces with much more fashion sense than the original owners. Another example of this ingenious repurposing is when the author spotted a traditional dancer carrying a small washboard adorned with brass tacks and ribbons which transformed the utility object into a prized dance accessory because of the dancer’s creativity.Now that the case has been made for the ingenuity of re-purposed historic articles the viewer can appreciate the appeal of Thomas’s fully beaded scabbard. To see more of Thomas’s work you can find him on Instagram at @thomas_ridley and often his pieces are available at
Thomas Ridley Article