Jacob Tix̂lax̂ Stepetin remembers growing up with his aunts and uncles, listening to Metallica.
“Aang, Tix̂lax̂ asax̂takuq. Unangax̂ akuq. Akutanam ilan angix̂takuq ”, introduces himself Stepetin in Unangam Tunuu. “My name is Jacob, or Tix̂lax̂, my name Unangax̂. I am from Akutan, an Aleutian village on Akutan Island. This is where I grew up most of my childhood. So this is my home.
Stepetin says heavy metal was popular when he was growing up in Unangam village of around 100 people
“As a kid, it was just one of the types of music that surrounded me, and I held onto it,” he said. “I spent a lot of time with my cousin and my older cousins were all passionate about metal, they all played Metallica, they all played instruments.”
Stepetin began his musical journey at the age of 12 and since then has been composing his metal riffs. In 2014, he started playing music with his college roommate, another native metalhead.
Together they found the native heavy metal band Merciless Indian Savages. Stepetin plays solo guitar. The band’s music covers a lot of heavy subjects, some from their own experiences. They have song titles like “Pseudo Savior”, “Manifest Death” and “Kill the Man / Save the Indian”.
The song titles grab your attention, but Stepetin says the point is to create an opportunity to talk about indigenous issues.
“I think our lyrical content focuses a lot on things that make us angry with the Indigenous experience,” Stepetin said. “I feel like you could write a lot of really positive music too. But that’s the nature of the genre. You know, we’re metalheads, we’re passionate about metal. And so the nature of the genre isn’t. is not really positive.
Each song written by the group highlights an aspect of the Indigenous experience. But more specifically, Stepetin says they want to draw attention to “the stories and systems that perpetuate colonization”.
“In the Declaration of Independence, he calls the indigenous peoples of the land, ‘Merciless Indian savages,’ said Stepetin.
He said the racist language in the Declaration was included in a list of faults the King of England had engaged against the United States.
“And one of those bad things [it says] it’s, “He brought the ruthless Indian savages” and then says something about them only knowing war and death, or murder or something like that, “Stepetin said. “So it’s pretty brutal. And that’s obviously extremely racist, which is no surprise for something that was written in the 1700s. ”
The declaration in the Declaration of Independence to which Stepetin refers is as follows:
“He stirred up domestic insurrections among us, and strove to bring the inhabitants of our borders, the ruthless Indian savages, whose known rule of war is indiscriminate destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
According to Stepetin, the name of their group is an educational opportunity to raise awareness of issues affecting Indigenous peoples of North America.
“I don’t think we’re trying to embrace this name as if it’s a valid description of who we are. It’s like an intentional abuse of language, ”he said.
After graduating from college in 2019, Stepetin and his fellow band members moved to Tempe, Arizona, the ancestral lands of the Akimel O’odam people. As the music scene rises again after being nearly extinguished by the COVID-19 pandemic, MIS looks forward to playing more together and playing their debut album, “Kill the Man / Save the Indian”.
Members of the MIS group include Corey Ashley (Diné) on vocals / rhythm guitar, Jacob Stepetin (Unangax̂) on lead guitar, Ruben Dawahoya III (Hopi / O’odham / Yaqui) on bass, and Joseph Manuel Jr. (Hopi / Akimel O ‘odham) on drums.
MIS performed their second show earlier this month at the Navajo Nation Metal Fest in Gallup, New Mexico. You can listen to MIS on all major streaming platforms or find more information on their website at mercilessndns.bandcamp.com.