What is Duodji? - Arctic Indigenous Design Archives (AIDA)

What is Duodji?

What is the meaning of the term duodji?

Gunvor Guttorm

Duodji is today understood firstly as the handicraft of the Sámi people. The Sámi people have through the ages lived of the natural resources and crafting of utility articles, and duodji/handicraft has been important for the survival in nature. Duodji, the craft, and duddjon, crafting, is a process of the hands, which provides the people their everyday necessities, like clothes, tools, things for the home and so on. Today duodji does still to some extent have the same purpose in the natural resources-based livelihoods as in the past, but the content of the duodji term has changed together with the change of the Sámi lifestyle. Today the duodji term can even contain modern acts of crafting, to which every craftsman ascribes their own meaning. Duodji is a part in the building of the Sámi identity, meaning that the Sámi people use duodji as their cultural property and their mean of expression, in which they include their own experiences.

The duodji term has had a wide range of meanings, like deed, product, activity[1]. The term has changed with time and it is therefore a fluctuating term. Konrad Nielsen has described the term as people understood it in the beginning of the 20th century[2]. Konrad Nielsen explains “mu duddjon beavdi” (a table made by me), “gussa duddjo ruovssi” (the cow makes udder) and “gierdavašvuohta duddjoráfi” (patience makes peace)[3], and here the handicraft is a function as well as an abstract act. In different dictionaries it translates to examples like: käsityö, työ, aikaansaannos, teos[4], hantverk, slöjd[5]. In Skolt Sámi language it is tuâij[6], in Inari Sámi language tyeiji[7], in Kildin Sámi language tu'jj[8], in Ter Sámi language tijje[9]. In Lule Sámi language it is called duodje. The word has thus been found in all Sámi languages. Also in the Southern Sámi language, they now use the word duedtie[10]. Duddjot is the word as a verb and it means to make, do handicraft, craft.

The term duodji has been added new or additional meanings during time. All kinds of products that require human thinking and crafting can be included as duodji. The term Duojár is thus the person who is crafting. Usually the Duojár has a local approach and the duodji-information is bound to a certain local understanding. Today a Duojár is also a person with professional education in Sámi duodji, for example possessing a certificate of apprenticeship.


[1] Guttorm 2010
[2] Nielsen 1979: s.v: duoggje.
[3] Nielsen 1979: s.v: duggjot.
[4] Sammallahti 1989: s.v.: duodji
[5] Svonni 1990: s.v.: duodji
[6] Lehtiranta 1989: s.v.: tuâij
[7] Lehtiranta 1989: s.v: tyeiji
[8] Lehtiranta 1989: s.v: tu'jj
[9] Lehtiranta 1989: s.v: tijje
[10] Bergsland/Mattson 1993: s.v: duedtie


Bergsland, Knut – Mattson, Laila 1993: Oarjel saemien-daaroen baakoegærja. Sydsamisk-norsk ordbok. Ikkaldas: Iđut.

Guttorm, Gunvor 2010: Duodjáris duojárat. Duddjon ealiha duodjedigáštallama. Article collection. Kárášjohka: Davvi girji.

Lehtiranta, Juhani 1989: Yhteisaamelainen sanasto. (Suomalais-Ugrilaisen Seuran Toimituksia 200). Helsinki: Suomalais-Ugrilainen Seura.

Nielsen, Konrad 1979: Lappisk (samisk) ordbok. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.

Sammalahti, Pekka 1989: Sámi-suoma sátnegirji. Saamelais-suomalainen sanakirja. Ohcejohka: Jorgaleaddji Oy.

Svonni, Mikael 1990: Sátnegirji. Sámi-ruoŧa, ruoŧa-sámi. Johkamohkki: Sámi girjjit.


Sámi Archives
Inker-Anni Linkola-Aikio,

Sámi University of Applied Sciences
Gunvor Guttorm,

Ájtte, Swedish Mountain and Sámi Museum
Anna Westman Kuhmunen,