In the era of reality television shows, the uniqueness of the Brown family surviving in the wilderness caught the interest of millions of viewers as shown in the series “Alaskan Bush People.” Living off the grid in the 21st century is really a challenging task, but this family, they claimed, was the real deal. The patriarch, Billy Brown and his wife Ami Brown, raised their children away from the convenience of modern technology. The TV series premiered in 2014 and was shown on the Discovery Channel for 12 seasons. Due to the success of the show, the family became famous and each of them earned a significant amount of money from it.

Meet the “Alaskan Bush People” – The Brown family

In 1983, Billy and Ami made a life-changing move from Texas to the Copper River Valley in the wilderness of Alaska, to raise their family. The couple had seven children: Matthew William, Joshua Bambam, Solomon Isaiah Freedom, Gabriel Starbuck, Noah Darkcloud, Snowbird and the youngest, a daughter named Merry Christmas Katherine Raindrop.

The kids were taught how to fend for themselves, as they lived in a community called Brownstone located in a remote area in Southern Alaska, about a 20-minute boat ride to go to the nearest town.

How do they survive in the wild?

In their own community, only the two girls, Snowbird and Rain, lived with their parents in a two-story home. Their five sons lived in their own preferred home quarters that were separately built. They had the convenience of using a cranky portable generator. If there was one thing that the Brown’s matriarch misses, it was having running water inside the house. Their children were raised believing that whatever they needed, they could create. The family knew the extreme danger that they were being exposed to as they lived off the grid, but they wouldn’t have it any other way.

Alaskan Bush People: Most interesting family drama

The TV show may have been categorized under the documentary-reality genre, but there’s a popular theory that everything that happened on the show was scripted. The family issues that were featured could rival that of any long-time daily drama on TV.

Oil revenue checks fraud

In 2016, people were shocked to find out that Billy and his son, Bam, were sentenced to thirty days in prison and forty hours of community service for fraud. Apparently, they lied about their residency when Alaska granted annual oil revenue checks to its residents. They filed to get their share of dividends when they didn’t have the required number of years or days per year as a resident in the region. Other members of the family were supposed to be charged as well, but the two men pleaded guilty to keep the rest of the family from being involved in the case. Billy said that due to their style of living, he must have been confused about the dates and years of residency in Alaska.

Ami Brown’s battle with cancer

One of the darkest moments in the life of the Brown family was when Ami was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2017. As she sought medical treatment in California, the whole family didn’t have any choice but to move to the North Cascade Mountains of Washington, and live on a 450-acre lot, 180 hectares to be near her.

Ami had chemotherapy five times a week for four months to prolong her life. At the time, she had a very low chance of being cured and Billy was distraught at the thought of losing his wife. Fortunately, she responded well to the treatment and has been in remission.

Matt Brown’s long battle with addiction and rape allegations

The eldest child Matt, had been dealing with a drinking problem that started in 2016. He hung out with the wrong crowd, but when he realized he had a problem, he confessed to his parents; he reportedly checked into a rehab facility three times from 2016 to 2019. He was doing great back in July 2020 as he shared via his Instagram account that he had been sober for the past couple of years after his last Betty Ford stint. However, it was decided that it would be best if he didn’t return to the show.

Initially, some fans questioned it, but when his rape allegations were revealed to the public, everyone understood the decision.

Apparently, both cases of alleged sexual abuse happened just three days apart in 2018; the first accuser, Jessica Jurges, was a former personal assistant of the Brown family in their TV show. She said that they were drinking and swimming in the pool when Matt grabbed her, ripped her swimsuit, and proceeded to rape her. She was only able to escape when Shelly Dawn Early, a former manager of the family, arrived and grabbed Matt’s hair. He was all in tears when he realized what he had done. The second accuser was Shelly who shared that three days after the first incident happened Matt allegedly raped her knowing she couldn’t fight him off due to her hip replacement that made her legs weak. He was quite drunk at that time, but after the incident he insisted that Shelly was the one who raped him. However, the DA in the Los Angeles country declined to prosecute, and the two victims said that even the authorities failed to protect them.

Noah and his wife, Rhain, left Brownstone due to in-law animosity

Noah and his wife Rhain (not to be confused with Noah’s sister Rain), left Brownstone and moved to Colorado to raise their family. According to real estate papers, the Colorado property was said to have been transferred to Noah without him spending a dime. Among all the Brown’s children, it was the youngest son who gave Billy and Ami their first grandchild, and people believed that it was the reason the property was gifted to Noah.

There were rumors that Noah’s decision to transfer to Colorado was mainly due to the animosity between his sister, Snowbird, and his wife. Some people also felt that Ami was meddling too much in how Noah should raise his child, and Billy was insisting that his grandson appear in the show as soon as possible. Noah dismissed these theories and said that his wife didn’t have any problem with her in-laws; he just wanted to take a breather, especially since he’s raising his own family now.

Billy Brown’s first family

In the TV series “Alaskan Bush People,” production people had struck a gold mine when it was revealed that Billy Brown had a secret family. He was married to a minor named Brenda and had two daughters, Twila and Brandy. His eldest child made a cameo appearance in the show in 2016 even though Twila had not seen his father in almost 30 years, and they failed to mention the other daughter for undisclosed reasons. Even after the very public reunion, they didn’t keep in touch. In Twila’s Instagram June 2020 post, she greeted Billy with the caption, ‘Happy Father’s Day to the absentee father.’ She was accused of throwing shade at his half-siblings by saying that after reading a few things about them, she was happy that she’s the most normal one in her DNA lineage.

Scripted or not – The real story behind the “Alaskan Bush People”

Reality TV shows are scripted for the simple reason that it wouldn’t be entertaining if the production crew would only show their everyday life as it was. However, as in most cases, the truth was stranger than fiction, so most of the stories were half-truths and the editing process made them more interesting.

In the case of “Alaskan Bush People,” some people believed that the family must have lived off the grid for some time in the past, and everything about them had been exaggerated for shock value.

Here are some revelations about the show and the stars from fans’ detective skills, online news, and investigative reports, along with the stories shared by the locals where they filmed the show.

Based on Billy’s Book

It was believed that the show was loosely based on the book “One Wave at a Time,” which Billy wrote back in 2007. Allegedly, the family really lived in a remote area to sell the idea to a TV studio, and what was seen on the show was just a re-enactment of their journey.

Government burned their cabin – Fake?

During the first season, Billy claimed that their home cabin was burned by the government because it was built in the wrong area of the public land, which was the start of their dramatic story. However, there was no substantial proof that the government had a hand in it, so during the second season they changed the narrative, and no longer mentioned the government, just that the cabin was burned down.

Alaskan Bush People

Not in an isolated area – they had neighbors

When the production crew was filming the first season, never in their wildest imagination did they think it would become one of the most-watched reality-TV series on cable. They thought it would just be a one-time deal, so the location they chose wasn’t really that far from the highway, and was pretty close to a pizza parlor. They built their Brownstone encampment not in an isolated area, as they had neighbors, who were quite annoyed by the continuous noise. Some of them were so ticked off by it that they lit fireworks when the crew was filming. However, the producers said that they were gunshots, as they included it in the show, with the narrative that people were chasing the Browns off the property. When reporters tried uncovering the truth, Alaskan State Troopers said that there weren’t any reported cases of gunshots in the area, only fireworks. Billy even had a dramatic line in the show – ‘The land is not worth dying for.’

The family lived in a hotel while filming

An online news site reported that the Brown family lived in a hotel in Hoonah, Alaska while they filmed the reality-TV series. They didn’t actually live in their wilderness community, as Brownstone was just some sort of a TV set, a prop to make everyone believe that they were living off the grid. It was found out that the stars of the show and the production crew were booked in the Icy Strait Lodge, and neighbors would see them going in and out of the hotel at any hour of the day if they weren’t filming.

They were internet-savvy and YouTube active users

Before the family became popular as the “Alaskan Bush People,” they referred to themselves as the Alaskan Wilderness Family. When Billy was asked about the website that they were running, long before the first episode of their reality TV show was aired, he said it was created on a whim by one of his sons to promote the children’s books that he wrote. He claimed that Bam would only have the opportunity to use the Internet when they went out for supplies.

The site had a great design, that people wondered if the Brown children really didn’t have a concept of modern gadgets. After investigating further, fans discovered that five of the children were active YouTube users, so it totally refuted the claim in the earlier seasons of the show that the children weren’t into modern technology.

How rich are the Alaskan Bush People?

Billy Brown died at the age of 68 on 7 February 2021, in the family’s home in Washington after suffering a seizure. The production crew of their TV show made a series of 911 calls asking for help as Billy wasn’t breathing, and CPR was done on the person but it didn’t revive him. Apparently, Bear tried calling 911 but the calls weren’t going through, so he called one of the crew to call 911. He was cremated after a private funeral service; the death of Billy was announced by Bear on his Instagram account.

Upon his death, fans were wondering how much money he’d earned from appearing on the TV show.

Alaskan Bush People

There were reports that his asking fee for each episode was $500,000, and since the show had been airing since 2014, his earnings must have been huge. His children’s fee apparently ranged from $40,000 to $60,000 per episode, and they must have built quite a large nest egg. Everything was provided by the production people during the filming, and with their simplistic way of living, they could live off their savings even if they stopped filming.

When news of his death went public, Robert Maughon sued the estate of Billy Brown for breach of contract, and also filed a creditor’s claim. Apparently, he invested $10,000 in Billy’s Alaska Wilderness Family Production and was promised that he would receive 10% of the gross income from the publication of books and movie and TV appearances, including documentaries. All this was stated in the contract he made with Billy in 2009. Ami and her children have not addressed the issue.

Alaskan Bush People net worth

According to authoritative sources, the family from the “Alaskan Bush People” has an estimated collective net worth of $60 million, as of May 2021.

Author

Robbie is currently a reporter for TheBiography based in Santa Monica, CA. Prior to joining TheBiography in December 2020, he was an entertainment reporter in People.

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