I have very few guilty pleasures, but the show Alaskan Bush People is definitely one of them. I don’t actually understand why this show sucked me in, but it’s oddly compelling. I’m sure the millions of people watching the show on the Discovery Channel have a similar feeling about the show. Basically, this is a show about a family that lives their lives in total isolation. Because of that, the Brown family often goes months without seeing another living soul. The show airs a season twice a year, so over the course of three years, we’ve seen seven seasons of this, with the seventh having ended in August 2017.
Fans of the show have followed Billy, Ami, Matt, Bam Bam, Bear, Gabe, Noah, Bird and Rain Brown since 2014, but there are some things even the most die hard fans of this show don’t know. Some of those things have to do with how the Brown family’s fame has affected those in the Alaska area and where the family is really from. Others have to do with what really happened on the show and what’s going on with individual members of the family. There’s also the unbelievable truth about the actual names of everyone in the family: some are nicknames, while others are 100% real. Here are 15 things you definitely didn’t know about the Brown family and Alaskan Bush People.
15. Their First Home Wasn’t Totally Out Of The Way
The Brown family’s whole schtick is that they live in total seclusion, away from any of the amenities that the rest of us consider normal. They live on a homestead, totally cut off from society. As much as they want us to believe that and as much as it gets the ratings up, that’s not really what’s happening here. They’ve been going on about how they’ve been one with nature and out in the wilderness for something like 30 years, but their old home begs to differ. Their old home was just ten miles out from the nearest town, a distance that you could walk if you were particularly determined. On top of that, they used to live within half a mile of a pizza restaurant. You can’t really claim that you’re “one with nature” when you can call for pizza and have them get to you within the hour.
14. Ami Brown Married Billy When She Was 15
Billy and Ami married in 1979 when Billy was 26. However, there’s an 11 year age difference between him and Ami, meaning that when Ami married Billy, she was fifteen years old. Nothing about that is okay, to be honest. Knowing that Ami married Billy at 15, it puts her isolation from the rest of her family in a much darker context. According to Billy, Ami’s early years were hard and traumatic: she grew up dirt poor and her father was physically abusive. Her parents separated when she was young and to this day, we don’t know why Ami is distant from her family. According to her brother Les, nothing about what Billy said is true, and on top of that, Billy seems to be twisting Ami’s childhood memories so that she believes Billy about her own life. I don’t know about you guys, but treating Billy and Ami’s relationship like one of star crossed lovers in a long lasting marriage just serves to gloss over the cold truth that Ami Brown was a child bride. Billy conveniently leaves out Ami’s age when he talks about their marriage, so even he knows marrying a 15-year-old was incredibly skeevy.
13. Billy Brown Is Rich And Not From Alaska
Part of the Brown family’s charm is that they’re from Alaska, living off of the land and doing it in a way that not many people would these days. However, while the family lives a rough and tumble life now, it didn’t actually have to go down that way. Billy Brown grew up quite privileged and his family could be considered very wealthy. He’s the son of a successful entrepreneur, so he lived a pretty lavish lifestyle. However, everything changed when his parents died in a plane crash, leaving Billy to make his own way. That’s what led him to Alaska. He’s not actually from there: he’s from Texas. He met his first wife and had his first daughter, Twila, in Texas, not Alaska. Actually, they didn’t go out to Alaska until 2012, in fact. I guess “Texas Bush Family” doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily.
12. Billy And Ami Brown Have Health Problems
Billy and Ami Brown are fighting health issues that would be very hard to work with in the wilderness. Billy has seizures fairly regularly, which would make living in the wilderness an issue. As for Ami, she has arthritic problems. Ami discussed her health with Radar Online in 2015, “It’s just something I think I’m going to have to live with.” Unfortunately, Ami Brown’s health has deteriorated rapidly since then. “Ami started getting sick months ago and we didn’t know what it was, but it changed from the point of ‘something’s wrong’ to ‘something’s wrong,’ ” Ami’s husband Billy said on the show. It was eventually discovered that Ami has lung cancer. “I don’t care who you are. I don’t care what you’ve been through. I don’t care how old you are. If you hear that your mother has cancer, it’s going to shock you,” says daughter Rain, who’s 14 now. “I just wish I could change it somehow. I’m very scared for her.”
11. Real Alaskan Natives Hate The Show
As much as the show is popular in the lower 48 states, the show is massively unpopular in Alaska itself. For one, the show might portray the Browns well, but the rest of the community in Alaska is annoyed at how the show portrays them. On top of that, the over-the-top drama that comes with filming any reality show has made the locals really angry, since nothing about what the show is doing represents anything about what living in Alaska is actually like.
Another major issue is that the show totally bypasses the issues of the indigenous people in Alaska. If you were watching the show and knew nothing about Alaska, you might be forgiven for thinking that there are no native Alaskans anymore. The show will even go out of its way to credit Egyptian innovations before crediting the state’s forefathers with anything. The way the show handles real Alaskan issues is really disrespectful, especially to those who realize that the show’s very concept is entrenched in Native American and Alaskan culture.
10. Sources Claim The Browns Are Lying About How They Live
In addition to all the other controversy that comes with being a member of the Brown family, there have also been issues that the family is totally lying about their lives. According to local Alaskans, the Browns don’t live in a remote area, but a fancy hotel in Hoonah. At least two sources have seen the Browns come and go from a really nice Hoonah hotel that comes with a lounge and bar attached. Considering the family’s health issues, it would make sense that they wouldn’t live in the wilderness full time, but it’s silly to lie about it, especially if you’re going to be seen in town. Billy Brown has also been charged with 24 counts of lying on Permanent Fund Dividend forms about their residency, which meant that they got paid for living somewhere they weren’t actually living. Lying on those forms essentially means that the state of Alaska found out that the family wasn’t living in Alaska for more than six months of any given year. Both Billy and Bam Bam pled guilty to the charges, essentially admitting that the family lived in at least four states in the lower 48 while pretending to live full time in Alaska.
9. The Kids Are Always On The Internet
The Brown family talks a big game about being cut off from the world and living in the wild, but the family also gets internet. Gabriel Brown posted a YouTube video showing a glimpse into his past, a ton of fans were suddenly calling everything they thought about the family into question. After all, how cut off from the world could the family be if they had good enough internet to upload videos to YouTube. As much as we want to think that the show is showing us the truth, we often forget that reality TV is often anything but real. As for the video itself, it shows Brown commenting on Billy’s book tour in 2008, and it mentions that the outing was the first time the family was out of seclusion. As much as we’d want to believe that, the fact that they have the internet in the first place shows that “seclusion” is a relative term.
8. Billy And Bam Bam Went To Jail Over Oil
Billy and Bam Bam did 30 days in jail for lying on residency forms. Back in 2016, it came out that they filled out forms that put them in Alaska when they weren’t in Alaska, which entitled them to lots of money they actually weren’t supposed to get. As much as it’s important to mention this because of the residency issues and lying, it’s also important to bring this up because of why they lied. The whole reason they did this is so they could get $27,000 worth of oil royalties they weren’t owed. Billy and Bam Bam actually presented a plea deal to the judge on their case that the judge rejected because he thought they should go to jail for this. In addition, they had to do community service and pay back $9,130 to the Alaskan government. On top of that, they had to pay an extra $12,000 in fines. It just goes to show that lying never pays off, even when it seems like it does.
7. Matt Brown Went To The Hospital After The Fridge Incident
Matt Brown was at the center of the infamous refrigerator incident that helped make the family famous. He made an objectively dumb decision by storing gun powder, cannon fuse, and a mason jar in his fridge. That made the fridge literally explode, leaving Matt with an injury that needed nine staples to heal. It was a freak accident, but an accident that could have been avoided because it’s really dumb to store gun powder in a refrigerator because of course that would make the door fly off and hit someone in the head.
As much as we’d want to think this is fake, it’s not. The incident wasn’t filmed for the show, so it’s not like they needed to make up the event, anyway. That didn’t stop people from wondering if the whole thing was a publicity stunt to get people to watch for a new season, but TMZ killed that rumor by stating in no uncertain terms that they weren’t even there when the fridge exploded. However, the incident put more focus on the fact that the family lives in modern society when they’re not filming and are pretty obviously bending the truth about their lives.
6. Matt Spent Time In Rehab Over Drinking
When Matt isn’t storing gunpowder in refrigerators, he’s dealing with a lot of personal demons. He revealed to People back in 2016 that he had a hard time dealing with his alcohol issues.“I started drinking lightly and then it got to be more and more. That’s when I saw the problem around the corner, and I didn’t want to be one of those guys.” He went on about those issues, admitting that when he drank, he was less happy. “I was more withdrawn. I was slower. Things didn’t excite me the way they used to.” His alcohol troubles began when the family’s boat broke down and they started spending time in Juneau, Alaska’s capital. “I’ve always been able to handle city life, no problem,” says Brown. “But I started hanging out with people who drank. They didn’t have a problem with it so while I was around them, I started drinking.” He went to rehab for 35 days to kick the substance abuse problems, and from what we can tell, he’s a lot better now. Hopefully he stays okay and away from the alcohol from now on.
5. The Family Fights A Lot
The show portrays the family as a loving, happy one, but scratch the surface and you’ll find major issues. According to Ami’s brother Les, Billy doesn’t let her talk to her side of the family and for 40 years, he’s been driving a wedge between Ami and them. He took to Facebook to tell his story, and he chose now since Ami has lung cancer. “To see my sister Ami in pain on national television, and to hear from many Alaskans how Billy has treated Ami those 38 years, has caused me many a sleepless night.” He also claimed that he and his family have been writing letters to Ami, but she’s never received one, so the only conclusion is that Billy is blocking them. “Billy wanted Ami all to himself. He wanted to isolate Ami and keep her from her family and he has successfully done so for 38 years.” He left off with a genuinely sad message for Ami that the world got to read. “In the end I have only Facebook to send a message, hoping somehow Ami will know that we cannot even write her as she suggested, and to tell her how much we still love her, and how much we have missed her, and how sorry we are we couldn’t do more.”
4. Some Of The Nicknames Are Real Names
The Brown children have some very strange names. Some of them are beautiful, but others are weird. The oldest son Matthew’s full name is Matthew Jeremiah Brown, which is a pretty normal name all things considered. The next son, Bam Bam, goes by his middle name: his full name is Joshua Bam Bam Brown. The names only get weirder as we go. Bear, the third son, has a long legal name: Solomon Isaiah Freedom “Bear” Brown. Gabe’s full name is Gabriel Starbuck Brown. The youngest son Noah’s middle name is Darkcloud. While the boys have weird names, none of them even touch the weirdness of the names of the Brown girls. The older girl, Birdy, has a very long name: Amora Jean Snowbird “Birdy” Brown. The younger daughter and youngest Brown child Rain’s actual legal name is Merry Christmas Katherine Raindrop “Rainy” Brown. This just goes to show that while some of the names of the kids are just nicknames, others are part of their legal name.
3. They Had An Identity Crisis At First
The name “Alaskan Bush Family” wasn’t what the Browns used to call themselves. Actually, the first name they referred to themselves as was the Alaskan Wilderness Family. They only stopped referring to themselves in that way when the camera crew arrived. Once it came time to film their show, they made the decision to go with Alaskan Bush Family instead. This kind of makes sense in light of new information that they weren’t so far out in the wilderness as they would have you think. The show begins with the family recovering from their home getting burned down by the authorities in Alaska for being on public land. The first few episode really showed them in the wild, building temporary shelters and trying to get themselves a new homestead. With that storyline, the name “Alaskan Wilderness Family” actually fits.
2. Is Bam Bam Married?!
One of the most popular kids in the Brown family would have to be Bam Bam. I can almost understand this too. He’s attractive in that “I live in the woods and never leave” sort of way, so it makes sense that some the women watching this show are tuning in for him. They must have been really sad when he announced that he was leaving the show. On top of that, he’s currently living in the lower 48 states with his new wife, Allison Kagan. Kagan met Bam Bam on the show since she was a crew member, and some of her other credits include 16 And Pregnant and Teen Mom. Fans were pretty sure that the two were together for a long time now and different tabloids following the family were able to uncover the truth of it. Bam Bam has made it a point to not mention the name of his wife, but the fact that he married Kagan is pretty obvious to anyone following the family’s drama.
1. Billy Brown Is A Published Author
Billy Brown has written something like sixty books, partially because he had so many kids to entertain. When they were younger, he wrote short stories for them. “Having so many kids to write for and all of them wanting something different, it gave me a wide range of things to choose from. I can write about Cowboys one day and Space Pirates the next. I have never really thought of myself as a writer, but everyone seems to get a kick out of the stories and I enjoy writing them” Billy said. His most famous book would have to be One Wave At A Time, where protagonist Billy Bryan Brown is abandoned at sixteen to make his way in the world. It’s basically Billy’s autobiography and it details how he met his wife Ami and came to live in Alaska, away from modern conveniences.
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