“Alaskan Bush People” is a docu-drama reality TV series that follows the activities of the large Brown family who live in remote Alaska, and navigate their lives through the off-the-grid lifestyle. The show premiered in May 2014 on the Discovery channel, and has run for 13 seasons, amassing a huge fan base. Its format appealed to many viewers who wondered about a life devoid of modern perks, and an existence depending solely on survivalist abilities. Since the show’s inception, the family has encountered various obstacles and faced numerous scandals, including personal feuds and legal troubles that landed them at the center of media attention.
Doubting Ami’s Cancer Diagnosis
If you are a fan of the show, you must remember that in 2017, the family’s matriarch Ami Brown was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, an ordeal documented on the show. It was a massive shock for the whole family, and her son, Bam Bam, said: ‘It’s what’s going on now is the most difficult thing that we’re ever gone through because of who it’s happening to, because it’s mom, and because of what it is.’ Even though initially her doctors told her that she had a low chance of recovery and survival, after having gone through extensive radiation treatments and chemotherapy, against all odds, in 2018 she received a clean bill of health.
However, the show and the Brown family have often been targets of criticism aimed at scripted content and made-up situations, and Amy’s diagnosis was no exception. Soon after the news of her sickness became public, many fans rushed to claim that she lied about the diagnosis to gain sympathy, and boost the show’s ratings. One of the fans wrote on Twitter: ‘I called it on Twitter that Ami wouldn’t die cuz she never had cancer’ and another one commented: “I mean it’s ALL FAKE even Ami’s cancer scare was scripted.’
At some point, the backlash was so intense that one of Ami’s doctors had to release an official statement confirming her diagnosis, and revealing details about her medical record. The doctor told People Magazine in March 2019: ‘Amora Brown was diagnosed with Stage III non-small cell lung cancer in April 2017. Treatment for her cancer included a four-month course of chemotherapy with radiation. Her disease responded well to the treatment, and, according to oncologist Dr. Deborah Wong, she is now in remission.’
Since the show premiered, Ami has captured the audience’s attention due to her and Billy’s unique lifestyle, and the story of how the two got together. According to reports, Ami was 15 years old when she married the 11-years-older Billy in 1978. Ami’s mother and brother later revealed that they didn’t support their relationship because of the age difference, and believed that Billy was a charlatan who lied about his finances and intentions to the underage Ami. After getting married to Billy, the family renounced Ami and completely severed ties with her. While the show was becoming popular, Ami’s family made several statements to media outlets claiming that Billy caused the divide, and that he explicitly prohibited her from making any contact with them. Ami’s brother Les disclosed: ‘Billy started acting very controlling of Ami from the beginning. I realized that Ami never spoke; Billy did all the talking. She would just kind of sit there beside him, smiling. I didn’t realize it then, but she wasn’t allowed to speak. She couldn’t speak without his permission’.
Regardless of the rumors and statements, many pointed out that Ami never wanted to reach out to her family. However, amid her cancer battle, her mother Earlene passed away in November 2018, which despite the years of estrangement, was a difficult moment for Ami. One of the family’s friends revealed some details to the public, contradicting the previous rumors about her wishes of not reuniting with her mother and said:’ Ami is rather upset about this, because she never got the opportunity to reconcile with her mom who tried for years and years to see her daughter. There is nothing that she can do. It’s too late. She’s gone.’
While it’s hard to establish which party is telling the truth, the fact remains that the whole ordeal and the loss of her mother gravely affected Ami, who at the time was in a bad place herself, battling a life-threatening disease.
Matt’s Problems with Addiction
Son Matthew Brown, born in 1982, was a sporadic presence on the show, mainly due to his issues with addiction and consequential disputes with his family members. In 2016, he was admitted to a rehab center for alcohol abuse, and was reportedly in an out of the facility over the following three years. Talking to a media outlet, Matt shared how he ended up in the situation: ‘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.”
Despite his fresh outlook and intentions to get clean, in September 2018, he re-entered the rehab, where he stayed for 30 days. Then in January 2019 he went back to the facility for the third time. During Matt’s battles with alcoholism, the family supported his journey, but in 2020 he chose to leave “Alaskan Bush People” and move to California. Furthermore, he posted a selfie on his Instagram, celebrating his path to sobriety, writing: ‘two years ago today, I walked in the front doors of Betty Ford, completely broken. I found happiness. [It’s] still one day at a time, and I still have my days, but it’s so much easier now, now that I have tools, now that I understand how to better understand myself.’
While it seemed that he’d finally managed to get on a straight path, in 2021, Matt was accused of sexually assaulting two members of the show’s staff, dating to 2018. According to reports, Matt was heavily inebriated, and the assaults were reported to police, but the charges were dropped and so he wasn’t prosecuted. To make matters worse, in April 2021, he told media outlets that his family robbed him of his pay from appearing on the show; allegedly, Billy took over $30,000 of his revenue and refused to give it back. On a lighter note, according to the latest reports, Matt has managed to put these issues aside, reunite with his family, and finally find inner peace. He is currently living on a farm and is very active on his Instagram. He often posts short videos where he talks about recovery, focusing on realistic goals and realistic time limits.
Billy’s Health Issues and Death
Billy, the family’s patriarch, who was often viewed as an invincible and seasoned survivalist with plenty of aces up his sleeve, battled various health issues. In 2018 he suffered a health scare after contracting a respiratory infection that called for immediate hospitalization. Discovery representatives confirmed the claims that the seemingly infallible Billy was in a hospital. At the same time, his son Bear Brown wrote in an Instagram post that his dad was in ‘really bad shape.’
Later it was revealed that Billy had several health issues with his heart and kidneys and had been in and out of the hospital for the last couple of years. Finally, in 2019 he underwent surgery. In addition to respiratory issues, since his hospitalization, Billy often experienced seizures which only added to his existing problems. Even though his doctors informed him that living at a high altitude with his health issues was not a good idea, the stubborn head of the family defied the doctor’s orders and continued living as he had lived before- on his own terms.
@AlaskanBushPPL Prayers are with all of you tonight. We are so sorry to hear of Billy’s passing. We loved watching and always being inspired to believe you can always do what you put your mind to. #BillyBrown #AlaskanBushPeople pic.twitter.com/JYnyCvOXmQ
— Paul Culbertson (@PaulCulbertson) February 9, 2021
After years of battling his issues, in February 2021, Billy passed away at their family estate in Washington, aged 68; the immediate cause of death was a seizure. Bear Brown, his son, shared a heart-wrenching post on Instagram confirming the news, writing: ‘We are heartbroken to announce that our beloved patriarch Billy Brown passed away last night after suffering from a seizure. He was our best friend – a wonderful and loving dad, granddad, and husband and he will be dearly missed.’
A couple of days before Billy died, he almost gave a chilly warning as if he could sense that his end was coming: ‘God has blessed me so much, but I won’t be around forever. To me, the most important thing is to make sure that the family core would go on. This is an important time. The ranch will go on forever as long as it’s set up right. The ranch must keep growing.’
Bam Bam and Billy’s Legal Troubles
In 2016, the Brown family made headlines after Billy and Bam Bam were sentenced to 30 days in jail for providing false information on Alaskan state forms. The story goes that the whole family was charged in 2014 with ’60-counts of first-degree unsworn falsification and second-degree theft’ relating to 2011-2013 applications submitted for Alaska’s permanent residency fund. Reportedly, they put false information on their application to receive the annual oil revenue check, which is only granted to Alaska residents. Under the Alaskan Law, the resident has to live year-round in order to receive the funds.
So now that Billy and bam are going to jail for lying about living in Alaska will the show finally admit it's not a documentery and these people don't live in the Bush in Alaska like you claim?
Given their turbulent lifestyle, they often moved from place to place, which in the period from 2011 to 2013 when they filled the forms, made them ineligible to collect these checks. In January 2016, Billy and Bear cut a deal with the prosecutors to save the rest of the family – they pleaded guilty to the unsworn falsification, a misdemeanor, and the judge ordered them to pay back the dividends, and revoked their right to claim these checks ever again.
However, that wasn’t all; they received 40 days of community service, and 30 days of jail time despite Billy’s age and health issues. The judge in the case justified the sentencing by saying: ‘If somebody who’s living in a trailer stole $2,000 in merchandise from Walmart, that person would get jail time. If somebody’s who’s struggling to get by stole someone’s purse and used their debit card to run up $1,000 (or) $2,000 worth of bills— they will get jail time”. In addition, Billy was instructed to pay a $10,000 fine, and over $7,000 for the checks, while Bam Bam was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine with $3,000 suspended. Later Billy reached out to media outlets and shared: ‘Because of the way we live our lives and the way we often unconventionally travel, I didn’t keep good track of our movements. I accept full responsibility for filing for benefits without confirming that we met the requirements.’
The Tumultuous Relationship of Bear Brown and Raiven
The romantic life of Bear Brown and Raiven Adams resembles a convoluted plot from a telenovela. Even die-hard fans had trouble keeping up with their mood swings and on-off relationship. They initially met at the wedding of Noah Brown, Bear’s brother, and the following year they began dating, making it official. A month later they announced their engagement, but split two weeks later. Bear Brown addressed the break-up on his Instagram, writing: ‘Sometimes people are better as friends and that’s perfectly okay.’
However, a day after they parted ways, they announced that they were expecting a baby, and were over the moon about it. They released a joint statement, saying: ‘Even though we’re no longer together, we’re still friends and dedicated to raising a healthy and happy child.” The romance and newly-made plans for parenthood didn’t last long. In February 2020, Raiven sought a restraining order against Bear, claiming that he verbally abused her, and had a propensity for volatile and aggressive behavior. The following month, Raiven gave birth to a son they named River, but allegedly Bear was nowhere to be found, and learned of this event two days later.
While it was never confirmed, there were some rumors that Bear filed legal paperwork and sought a DNA test to determine whether he was the father, to sort out the impending legal battle. He initially asked for joint custody, but was denied, as Raiven wanted him to have restricted visitations. However, having been through all these ups and downs, they put their differences aside, and made-up for the sake of their child, but parted again after Billy passed away. Most recently, as far as is known, in January 2022 they reconciled for the fifth time, and even tied the knot, much to everyone’s shock, or was it? You may not have to hold your breath long for the next installment.