The untold truth of the Alaskan Bush People

Alaskan Bush People is about a large family struggling to live off the land in—you guessed it—Alaska. But the Brown family may not be struggling as much as you might think. We ventured to the furthest reaches of the internet's world wide wilderness to track down the real truth about the show…and the family behind it. Here's all the behind-the-scenes information and real-life stories that the Alaskan Bush People—and the people responsible for their stardom—don't want you to know.

Billy Bryan Brown was born rich

Billy Bryan Brown admits in his own writing that he wasn't born in Alaska. He claims to have been born into "a world of privilege" to a Texas limo company president. In his words: "I was given new boats and cars for my birthdays. I was truly the luckiest kid in town—I had it all—money, clothes, big ticket toys and a loving family, too." Sadly, Brown's parents perished in a plane crash in 1969, after which Brown says he did odd jobs around Texas and New Mexico to make ends meet.

Ami Brown was a teen bride

Radar Online reports that Ami Brown was only 15 years old when she married Billy in 1979. He was 26, accounting for an 11-year age gap. That's illegal in most states today. And creepy everywhere, always.

They're probably richer than they look

Even though Alaskan Bush People portrays the Browns as simple "bush folk" who must hunt to survive, there are some strong clues that the Browns are well off financially. First, there's the fact that like many reality TV families, the cast is compensated for appearing on camera. Second, the Browns were able to afford a trip to Hawaii not long after being ordered to pay out tens of thousands of dollars. You'll note that the Discovery Channel, despite building a season around Billy and Bam Brown both heading to jail, never ever mentions the fine.

Kind of weird, right? It's the sort of thing you do when you don't want viewers to ask how a cast of supposedly poor bush people can come up with the money for a massive fine and stay in Hawaii during its busy (read: expensive) tourist season.

Billy Bryan Brown is an accomplished writer

The family patriarch's published books include One Wave at a Time, which is said to have inspired the television show. That's impressive for someone who, ostensibly, has never used anything beyond candlelight and fountain pen to write, let alone a typewriter, computer, or the internet. Speaking of…

The kids use technology regularly

In 2008, Gabriel Brown (wearing a tank top) posted a YouTube video about his life. He talks about his father's book tour and a potential movie deal stemming from One Wave at a Time. He says it's the first time any of the kids have been out of the wilderness, "the first time we've ever seen a traffic jam," or eaten fast food. He says that they'll post videos for the duration of the tour, which is an odd activity if they're not skilled in technology. He ends the video with impersonations of celebrities…the same celebrities he'd never have known about if he didn't have access to television or the internet. Huh?

The Brown parents may have to leave the bush

Ami Brown suffers from cervical radiculitus, a form of arthritis in her neck. She told Radar Online, "It's just something I think I'm going to have to live with…It limits me on things that I can do that I like to do and enjoy to do. It definitely makes it harder to live there. It's sad and true." Meanwhile, Billy Bryan Brown's struggles with seizures have been documented on the show: if they continue, he'll have to stop pretending to live like a barbarian for a while and spend more time closer to hospitals.

Matt Brown went to rehab to cope with heavy drinking

Rumors of Matt Brown's supposed drinking problems have circled Alaskan Bush People for a couple of years. Radar Online gave an exclusive report on Brown's 2013 DUI arrest, and in 2016, there were multiple claims he'd left the show to seek treatment for his drinking. The rumors were finally confirmed in the last two episodes of season 5, during which Matt confessed on-camera to brother Gabe Brown before leaving. The season ended with something of a cliffhanger, as Matt didn't return to "Browntown" as scheduled, instead opting to spend additional time in rehab.

He later sat with People for an interview about his drinking. "I could see myself spiraling," said Brown. "I was more withdrawn. I was slower. Things didn't excite me the way they used to." Those who've seen him recently note he seems happier—hopefully, he's put his struggles behind him.

They might be fraudsters

Alaskan Bush People has worked hard to cultivate an image of God-fearing wholesomeness and simplicity around the family. That façade was shattered when the Browns were hit with a massive fraud scandal. It turned out that the self-proclaimed "bush people" had spent a few years outside of Alaska, and during that time, they fudged the information on their Permanent Dividend Fund applications. This allowed them to reap thousands of dollars while not actually being in the state.

According to the Juneau Empire, Billy Brown and his son Bam were sentenced to 30 days in jail as part of a plea deal that would keep several members of the Brown family out of prison. They were also forced to cough up a combined total of $21,000. Before you cry too hard for the Browns, you should know that the pair never actually set foot in jail. Alaska Dispatch-News reports the two men would head to Juneau for electronic monitoring rather than going to prison.

They called a major tourist destination home for years

The Browns repeatedly go on about being "born wild," but some who claim they knew the family before their fame refute this. Reality TV Scandals interviewed a woman named Heather Bagayas, who allegedly dated Matt Brown back in 2006. Perhaps the most revealing aspect of this interview is where Bagayas said the "Wolf Pack" lived prior to meeting Brown: Haines, Alaska. While not the big city by any means, Haines isn't the bush. Despite a population of about 1,700 people, Haines is actually a major tourist destination, and boasts the largest population of bald eagles in the world.

According to Bagayas, her ex and his siblings lived in Haines until he was a teenager. She added that if Matt Brown and his siblings were truly "raised wild," they would have lived in the bush while she was dating him. Touché, Bagayas.

The Browns allegedly live in style when they aren't filming

Rumors persist that the Browns don't actually live in "Browntown" while filming. Alleged neighbors Jay Erickson and Becky Hunnicutt told Radar Online that they see the family "coming and going from the Icy Strait Lodge" in Hoonah, Alaska "at all hours." Hunnicutt adds that the boys seem to each have their own room. That's a remarkably different situation from what's often portrayed on Alaskan Bush People. Whether in the wild or "forced" to live among everyday people, we usually see the Browns inhabiting extremely cramped spaces. The show gives an almost claustrophobic impression when it comes to privacy.

Erickson and Hunnicutt's claims would seem to back up an in-depth post by Reality TV Scandals, which goes a step further. Not only does the Brown family supposedly stay at Icy Strait Lodge, but so do the Alaskan Bush People producers and crew members. Interestingly, an Inquisitr exclusive revealed that Barbie Phillips, the manager of the Icy Strait Lodge, is an admin for a private Facebook group dedicated to "Alaskan Bush People VIPs." The other admin happens to be Twila Byars (Wilson), Billy's eldest daughter from a previous marriage.

They originally had a different name

Before they were known as "the Alaskan Bush People," the Browns marketed themselves as the "Alaskan Wilderness Family." This also happens to be the name of a website supposedly run on behalf of the Browns by "friends who helped with the books." Although Billy Brown wrote dozens of books, the website currently only promotes One Wave at a Time and The Lost Years. It makes sense, as these titles are the cornerstone of the family's entire "Alaskan wilderness family" shtick.

Speaking of which, it's worth noting that Les Branson, Ami Brown's brother, has images of the Brown family on his Facebook page. One family photo that was posted on March 11, 2009 has Branson referring to them as the "Alaskan Wilderness Family." It's worth noting that Alaskan Bush People first aired in 2014. So it's entirely possible that the show was marketed under this original title until someone at Discovery revealed that it wouldn't go over very well. More importantly, it demonstrates that the Browns didn't refer to themselves as "bush people" until after they got their TV deal.

Gunfire or fireworks?

One of the more infamous moments from Alaskan Bush People's first season involved gunshots allegedly fired at the Browns. When Alaska Dispatch-News investigated the incident, what they found was rather baffling. First, despite claims that Alaskan Bush People was filmed deep in the isolated Alaska wilderness, it turns out that the show filmed near the home of Jason Hoke, a 46-year-old regional economic development director who relocated to Alaska in 1996.

According to Hoke, one evening he simply couldn't take the disruptive noise anymore. He claimed helicopters that flew over his property to film those "sweeping views" Alaskan Bush People is known for were shaking his house. "My youngest boy Ethan, who was about 4 at the time, is crying," he recalled. To warn the helicopters away, Hoke fired "two or three mortar-type fireworks into the air." Alaska Dispatch-News reports that no charges were filed, the Federal Aviation Administration hit Jason Hoke with a $500 fine.

Although the fireworks incident was reported to authorities, there were no other confirmed reports of gunfire. It's important to note that based on where the Browns were filming during the first season, if someone had fired a weapon, others would likely have heard and reported the gunshots.

The show ignores actual Alaskan bush people

One of the unspoken controversies of Alaskan Bush People is its willful erasure of Alaska's indigenous people. You'll note that throughout the series, the only bush people you ever see are small communities of white Alaskans. Nothing whatsoever is said about Alaska's native peoples, the ones who've actually maintained the same culture as their ancestors for thousands of years. These people have lived the same way since long before anyone heard of the West-bound pioneers to whom Billy Brown loves to compare himself.

This is just one area where the show manages to offend Alaskans. Not only is the reality TV show felt to misrepresent the average Alaskan, but it features non-Alaskans erasing the history and culture of native Americans while appropriating their spaces. The show even went as far as to "credit" Egyptian technology rather than borrow anything from indigenous Alaskans or other well-established Alaskan communities.

Noah Brown may have 'dated' a paid actress

Early in the fifth season, Noah Brown shocked everyone with the announcement that he'd made a potential "love" connection during the family's extended stay away from "Browntown." The young woman turned out to be a beautiful brunette by the name of Karynna Kauffman. Kauffman voluntarily took a trip from California to spend time with Brown, which included a personal tour of the chicken coop he supposedly calls home.

While the entire matter was awkward enough on its own, Radar Online soon reported that Kauffman was, in fact, an actress. Did Alaskan Bush People producers actually hire a woman to pretend to be interested in Noah Brown? If so, that's kind of sad. Despite the revelation, no one associated with the show has come forward to confirm or deny the reasons behind Kauffman's appearance on the show. If other beautiful women take an on-camera interest in the Brown men, we'll be sure to hit up IMDb just to be sure of their intentions.

Billy Brown had a hidden past

The bombshell revelation of Billy Brown's first marriage came with a "long lost daughter" storyline on Alaskan Bush People. Radar Online obtained a marriage certificate showing a then 16-year-old Brown as marrying a 17-year-old unnamed woman on October 23, 1969. This marriage produced two children, both of whom are now adults. It was daughter Twila Byars who recently appeared on the show for an alleged reunion. Although Ami and Billy Brown claimed they hadn't heard from Byars in nearly 30 years, sources told Radar that Billy had some contact with his daughter prior to the show.

There are also claims that despite Brown's never-ending spiels about the importance of family, he had nothing to do with the children in his prior marriage while they were growing up—something that supposedly continues to be a source of resentment. Making things worse, Radar states that Billy Brown was even accused of failing to be there for his estranged daughter following the death of his granddaughter.

Billy Brown's relationship with Ami's family is complicated

In 2014, just as Alaskan Bush People was taking off, Amora "Ami" Brown's brother Les Branson posted a cryptic message to the show's official Facebook page. This was followed with a series of disconcerting allegations about the state of Ami's marriage and overall happiness. According to Branson, Billy Brown had purposely kept his wife Ami away from her family for close to 40 years.

This accusation came by way of a closed Facebook post cited by Reality TV Scandals. Said Branson, "Billy has made my sister, if not an accomplice to his crimes and confidence schemes, at the very least a material witness or an accessory after the fact, thereby endangering her life. Maybe that is why prior to the television show he kept her hidden away from the public and her family. Maybe that is why she is visibly upset when she learns a state trooper wants to talk to her."

It turns out the scene—which is no longer available online—in which state troopers speak to Ami Brown away from Billy, was a wellness check requested by her estranged family.

Bam supposedly hooked up with a crew member

While the Brown boys' romantic exploits are well-documented on the show—Noah's cringe-inducing dates and all—Bam has reportedly pursued his love live off camera as well, and with a show producer to boot. Bam announced his decision to take "a bit of shore leave" on the most recent season of the show in order to go out in the world and find someone to share his life with. He apparently found success quickly, telling People in February of 2017 that he'd found a "city girl" who "stirred something inside me and made my soul wake up."

Bam didn't reveal his secret lover's identity to People, but Radar Online had already outed her as show producer Allison Kagan after eagle-eyed fans produced this photo of them getting cozy in NYC in late July of 2016. And to further deepen the mystery, this photo of Bam, also posted to a Facebook fan page, popped up in August of 2016, and appears to show him wearing a wedding band. This has led to all kinds of speculation about whether or not he secretly married Kagan—and has led us to believe that diehard fans of Alaskan Bush People have way too much free time.

Matt was injured after blowing up his fridge

Unfortunately for show producers, the cameras weren't rolling on what could have been one of the most extreme Brown family moments of all time. Eldest son (and presumable heir to Browntown) Matt required nine staples in his head after an incident in which he somehow blew up his refrigerator, sending the door rocketing into his noggin. Yep. TMZ reported that for whatever reason, Matt had "filled a mason jar with gunpowder and cannon fuse, and stored it in his fridge." Other than the obvious misuse of dangerous explosive materials, it's unclear exactly why the improvised device went off, but if we had to guess we'd say that fridge couldn't take one more moment sharing a household with this nutty family.

The production company has supposedly lost its insurance

The Facebook page Alaskan Bush people Exposed has been posting about the supposedly fraudulent activities of the Brown family for years. Citing local, anonymous sources, the page has accused the Browns of being total phonies who only return to Alaska when filming the show, claiming they actually split their time between rental homes in Los Angeles and Colorado. Their most recent exposé, as of this writing, is a claim that show producer Park Slope Productions has lost its insurance and packed up and left Browntown for good. The page also claims that the family "have lost their guns, powder, ammo and all firearms of any kind." None of that has been verified by a reputable source, although the Browns have had issues with fishing and hunting permits in the past. Also, Discovery just announced a surprise return of the show slated for June of 2017 despite the previous season only ending in March, leaving people wondering about the sudden scramble. Is the network trying to squeeze in one last hurrah with their golden bush geese?

A missing woman was bizarrely connected to them

This one admittedly has the loosest actual connection to the show, but it's so unusual we'd be remiss to omit it. As pointed out by Ryan Berenz of TVInsider, who tracks the antics of the Brown family like Bear on, well…bears, a Portland, Maine woman who went missing was supposedly in contact with members of the Wolf Pack.

According to WCSH6, Alisha was reported missing to the Sagadahoc County Sheriff's Department after she "went outside to feed the chickens" and never came back. The Sheriff's office issued a statement with her physical description and last known whereabouts, as well as this perplexing piece of info: "Alisha has allegedly been talking to cast members from the TV show The Alaskan Bush People as of recently." Fortunately, Alisha was found safe shortly after she went missing, but there was no other mention of the Browns. The number of questions here is endless. Was she romantically involved with one of the boys? Did the chickens have something to do with it, like part of a barter with Billy? Is she a speech pathologist, secretly working to help the Brown children get rid of their mushmouth old English accents? We have to know!