Who is Atz Kilcher?
Atz Kilcher whose real name is Atilla Kuno Kilcher is one of the biggest stars of Discovery Channel’s “Alaska: The Last Frontier”. He was born in Homer, Alaska on 2 September 1947, the fourth of eight children of Swiss immigrants Yule Kilcher and Ruth Weber.
Atz’s father, Yule was well-known in his own right; despite not being an Alaskan native, he has become quite influential, serving as a one-term senator and a delegate to the state’s constitutional convention. In 1979, Yule gained worldwide recognition for his documentary film “A Pioneer Family in Alaska”, which was made up of footage from the family’s homestead and showcased their daily life.
Ruth Kilcher, on the other hand, spent most of her time with her children, and was a renowned poet, writer and activist.
Growing up on the famous Kilcher Homestead, Atz and his siblings spent a lot of time in nature, and taking care of the family’s animals. However, living in such a remote area meant that the nearest school was way beyond walking distance, so the kids were homeschooled by their mother.
Sadly, as Atz’s memoirs reveal, his early life was not as idyllic as one might imagine. He was faced with a lot of turmoil at home, suffering abuse from his father whom he described as a ‘tyrant’.
In his teenage years Atz moved to Homer, where he attended high school. During his time there, he showed great athletic aptitude and competed in various sports including cross country and basketball. He also spent two years studying in Europe, before enrolling at Brigham Young University in Utah, where he pursued a degree in Psychology.
At the age of 20, like many young Americans at the time, Atz was drafted to serve in the Vietnam War. Upon returning home two years later, he married his college sweetheart, Lenedra, but continued to pursue further education, and went on to attain a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Utah.
After Atz and Lenedra settled in Homer, they began their local music career, and even released two full-length albums. Atz mostly sang about his life, and is particularly known for his yodeling.
Meanwhile, the Kilcher family grew as Atz and his wife welcomed their three children – Shane, Atz Jr. and Jewel. They were raised similarly to their father, on the family homestead where they experienced true Alaskan ‘pioneer’ life.
Is Atz still on “Alaska: The Last Frontier”?
In 2011, Atz and his family became the stars of their own reality TV series on Discovery Channel. Having been on the air for more than a decade, “Alaska: The Last Frontier” has become one of the most popular and acclaimed reality series about the Alaskan way of life. In the center of the story is, of course, the Kilcher family residing on the more than 90 years old family homestead in the wilderness. The show also features Atz’s younger brother Otto, his wife Charlotte, and their four children.
Eivin and Atz Kilcher share some of their most cherished learnings from Otto 💚Watch a brand-new episode of #AlaskaTheLastFrontier tomorrow night at 9p ET on Discovery.
Posted by Alaska: The Last Frontier on Wednesday, October 19, 2022
The previous season of the show ended on a cliffhanger, showing Atz going to a doctor’s office to determine if he might have cancer. ‘Something’s pushing on my stomach. There’s a bulge inside my stomach where there shouldn’t be one, so something on the outside is pushing in, so they want to go find out what that is.’, Atz said in the episode.
The possible diagnosis is looming over him after a series of other health issues, including emergency surgery on his hernia. Luckily, Atz is still going strongly, and has been able to make an appearance in the latest season of “The Last Frontier”.
Aside from his homestead, and his TV appearances, Atz has also been a local celebrity for a long time, mainly because of his music. He’s known for writing and singing songs about the hardships of his life. His music can be described as a mix of bluegrass, folk and country, plus yodeling.
Atz passed his interest in music to his children as well – during the time they spent together, the kids would often sing, or play the guitar and the piano. Jewel Kilcher (who now performs as just ‘Jewel’), Atz and Lenedra’s second child, has even managed to make a career out of her music, and become famous on her own. Growing up, she often performed in local bars and taverns in a duet with her father, and later credited this time as being integral to her becoming a professional musician. Today, Jewel is a world-famous country singer, with four Grammy nominations and over 30 million album sales under her belt.
He has published a memoir
Atz Kilcher is a published author as well. In 2018, he published his memoir “Son of a Midnight Land”, in which he talked about parts of his life that he had previously kept secret. In his book, Atz doesn’t attempt to romanticize his experience growing up and living on the homestead, and uncovers the years of abuse he went through as a child. His father often humiliated Atz and his siblings, resorting to physical and psychological violence on many occasions.
The years of abuse combined with his time spent serving in Vietnam caused Atz to develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which he used to ‘treat’ with alcohol. In the following chapters, he talks about how this experience affected the way he was raising his own children, admitting that he had also become a somewhat abusive parent.
A few months after Atz’s book hit the shelves, his daughter Jewel published her own memoir entitled “Never Broken”, recounting how her mother took Jewel and her siblings away from Atz’s physical abuse. Jewel stayed in contact with her father, though, and as mentioned even performed with him. Although the experience wasn’t particularly wholesome, it taught her a lot about life, and she learned to steer clear of drugs, alcohol and gambling.
When she was 15, Jewel moved away to study at the prestigious Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, and at that point she was pretty much abandoned by her mother, with whom she had no contact; the two only reconnected after Jewel signed with a record label. Clearly having some ulterior motives, Lenedra nearly drove her daughter to financial ruin which led them to lose contact once more.
Meanwhile, Jewel reconciled with her reformed father, who clearly apologized for his past mistakes.
He’s back to writing
As of 2022, Atz has been working on a new blog series in collaboration with Project Healing Waters, a charity organization for war veterans. A series of columns entitled “Dispatches from Atz” is being published weekly on the organization’s official website, covering his time at Freedom Ranch where he spent time fostering a community with fellow veterans through stories, music, and fly fishing.
“It’s another testimony and powerful experience in music and storytelling, in daring to share your journey, and believing that as humans we can affect each other in a positive healing way”, Atz said about the series.
When it wraps up, it’s likely that it will get turned into a book of stories, with a portion of the proceeds going to Project Healing Waters.
Where is his son Atz Jr. now?
As we saw in “The Last Frontier”, Atz Jr. is something of a ‘back sheep’ in the Kilcher family. He left the family homestead two decades ago, to pursue a different life, driven by his dreams of becoming a musician. Eventually, he returned home to live in the Alaskan wilderness.
Somewhat unconventionally, Atz Jr. relies solely on hunting as a source of meat for himself and his family. Although this is considered risky, he prefers it this way, because not having to take care of livestock gives him with more time for hunting before winter, with fewer expenses.
Atz Lee Kilcher is married to his childhood friend, Jane, but before marrying each other, the two both had a failed marriage behind them. Atz has a son named Etienne from his marriage with his first wife, Nantia Krisintu, while Jane is the mother of Piper, her daughter from her previous marriage with Dicran Kassouni. Today, Atz and Jane are taking care of these children, not having any kids together yet. Much like their parents, they are living a self-sufficient life on the homestead, where they are growing their own vegetables, fishing, and hunting for meat.
People always said I was out there. pic.twitter.com/iBBBnXeyQz
— Atz Lee Kilcher (@AtzLee) June 2, 2021
However, the children rarely appear in “The Last Frontier”, because Atz and Jane want to protect their privacy as much as possible. They know the risks associated with early fame, and don’t want to have their children suffer the consequences.
‘I’ve been overwhelmed lately by people realizing we have children who aren’t in the show. We’re so proud of our kids … they are not a secret, we just keep their lives private and away from the AWFUL Internet trolls. As they get older you may see them in an episode or two – after I’ve made sure they can deal with all the craziness!!!’, Jane wrote in a Facebook post from 2018.
The kids have since appeared in a few episodes, but haven’t spent a lot of time on screen. Earlier in 2022, Etienne left Alaska to pursue higher education at the University of California.
What happened to Otto Kilcher? Death rumors
In a recent episode of “Alaska: The Last Frontier”, we saw that Atz’s brother, Otto was injured during a snowstorm. It certainly wasn’t his first time going out hunting in spite of dangerous weather conditions, but this was almost his last. Because of the snowstorm, Otto failed to see an ox coming his way, and ended up being trampled by the bovine.
He was rushed to the hospital following the incident, where he recovered from his injuries. While Otto was away, his sons had to step in and take over the many responsibilities he had on the homestead. This traumatic experience led Otto to rethink his approach to life, and at one point he even considered abandoning the homestead altogether.
Not long after the accident, some viewers of the show noticed that Otto was unusually quiet on social media, and wasn’t spotted hanging out with his family on the ranch either. This started a wave of rumors concerning the homesteader’s death, which were disproven as soon as he was released from hospital.
While promoting season 11, Otto uploaded a video onto Instagram that shows the lead-up to the near-fatal encounter. ‘Well, suppose the cat’s outta the bag by now. It was a great day at the head of the bay, it just ended poorly. High tides, snow storms – no problem. Bovine trample, emergency responders – not so cool.’, Otto wrote in the description.
This incident happened more than a year ago, while the newest season to go to air was being filmed. Since then, Otto has fully recovered and is back to work. In fact, the day the episode aired, he was spotted riding his horse to track a bear he spotted at the head of the bay.
Otto isn’t the only star of “The Last Frontier” to have been involved in an accident that almost ended fatally. In 2015, Atz Lee fell off a cliff while hiking in Otter Cove, located five miles away from Homer.
‘Atz Lee Kilcher, an experienced hiker, suffered a terrible fall when hiking in Otter Cove,’ his wife, Jane, wrote on Facebook following the accident. ‘His injuries included a broken arm, a broken shoulder, a broken ankle, a broken hip, crushed ribs, and two punctured lungs. The family appreciates everyone’s good thoughts at this challenging time.’
A few months later, Atz Lee gave an update about his recovery, saying that he no longer had trouble breathing, and was expecting to be back ‘among walking’ any time soon. His injuries and recovery process were also documented in the series. It took more than a year for Atz to get back to his old self, while his family was there to support him the entire time.
In 2017, Atz tried seeking $100,000 from the Otter Cove resort, claiming that they were responsible for the incident. Court papers reveal that he accused them of failing to properly guard the critical area, putting their guests in danger. The resort fought back, denying liability and negligence. According to them, Atz was injured ‘due to his own neglect’ which doesn’t fall under the responsibility of the resort. Five years later, it’s unclear what came of the lawsuit.