When our students chose Alaskan Bush People, we were all stunned. When they changed their focus from Alaskan Bush People being fake to Alaskan Bush People the human experience, we were not only surprised, but also immensely impressed and proud.
Changing the topic about the Brown family living in the Alaskan wilderness contributed to our students’ success because it turned criticism into compassion.
When we asked our students what prompted them to change their focus from Alaskan Bush People being fake to Alaskan Bush People the human experience, they commented that Matt Brown’s recent words about his family touched them deeply.
When talking about having had a tough year, Matt Brown is not only referring to a refrigerator blowing up on him and having to deal with alcoholism. His mom Ami, the Alaskan Bush People family matriarch, is also reportedly being treated for cancer in Los Angeles.
Initially, when asked to pick a topic for their final research paper, our students thought that exploring the life of a family living in the Alaskan outback would be worth their energy and time. Our students had come across Alaskan Bush People while studying Alaska and were intrigued by Discovery Channel’s description of the Brown family.
“Deep in the Alaskan wilderness lives a newly discovered family who was born and raised wild,” introduces Discovery Channel the Brown family. “Billy Brown, his wife Ami and their seven grown children – 5 boys and 2 girls – are so far removed from civilization that they often go six to nine months of the year without seeing an outsider,” continues the network its description. “They’ve developed their own accent and dialect, refer to themselves as a ‘wolf pack,’ and at night, all nine sleep together in a one-room cabin. Simply put, they are unlike any other family in America.”
What is ‘Alaskan Bush People’?
Alaskan Bush People is one of Discovery Channel’s reality television shows. The Brown family, aka “wolf pack,” allegedly lives in remote Browntown away from any civilization. At least this is how the network presents it.
The Brown family’s patriarch is 64-year-old Billy Bryan Brown. His wife Ami is 53. The Alaskan Bush People cast members include their children Matt, 34, Joshua (Bam Bam), 32, Bear, 30, Gabe, 27, Noah, 24, and the two daughters Snowbird, 22, and Rain, 14.
Since our students discovered differences in the reporting of the ages of the Alaskan Bush People parents and children, they researched the family members exact birth dates:
Alaskan Bush People patriarch Billy Bryan Brown was born on December 3, 1952. Mom Ami (full name Amora Lee Branson Brown) was born on August 28, 1963.
- Matt Brown (Matthew Jeremiah Brown) was born on September 7, 1982.
- Joshua Brown (Joshua Bam Bam Brown) was born on September 18, 1984.
- Bear Brown (Solomon Isaiah Freedom “Bear” Brown) was born on June 10, 1987.
- Gabe Brown (Gabriel Starbuck Brown) was born on December 15, 1989.
- Noah Brown (Noah Darkcloud Brown) was born on July 18, 1992.
- Bird Brown (Amora Jean Snowbird “Birdy” Brown) was born on November 18, 1994.
- Rain Brown (Merry Christmas Katherine Raindrop “Rainy” Brown) was born on November 23, 2002.
All of the Alaskan Bush People family members have been on the air since 2014. With its seventh season beginning this week, the reality show is drawing in an audience of more than five million people.
Is ‘Alaskan Bush People’ fake?
Discovery Channel’s reality television show is about as phony as any television show that is produced to draw in an audience and to make money. However, behind the fake Alaskan Bush People show and its cast members is the story of a family that is all too real.
Our students’ initial enthusiasm – we want to live in the Alaskan outback like the Brown family with seven children — was crushed the more they researched their topic. How could anyone claim to be wild and live apart from civilization if you are surrounded by a filming crew?
Media headlines stating that Alaskan Bush People was fake and that the Brown family cast members actually spent quite a bit of time outside of Alaska disappointed our students. Because of their learning disabilities and/or emotional challenges, our students could all too well relate to wanting to live in some remote place like the Alaskan wilderness.
The Brown family’s beginning
After reflecting on their own reasons as to why they would want to escape to the Alaskan outback, our students began researching the story behind the Brown family.
At the age of 16, about the same age as many of our students, Alaskan Bush People patriarch Billy Bryan Brown lived in an affluent Forth Worth neighborhood in Texas. Billy’s world crushed to pieces and left him orphaned when his parents and sister died in a private plane crash.
By the age of 26, Billy was working a nine-to-five job as a plumber. He had already been married, divorced, and had fathered two children.
Billy met 15-year-old Ami, the future Alaskan Bush People matriarch, when he was working as a plumber in her family’s home in Fort Worth, Texas. Ami’s cousin, who was working for Billy, introduced him to the family in order to take care of a plumbing job that needed to be completed in Ami’s home.
In a recent interview, Ami’s mother and brother recalled the events that happened 38 years ago. Initially, Ami’s family members were impressed by the “very charismatic” and “rugged individualist” Billy and his stories of being wealthy. Seeing Billy as a reputable and honorable person, little did they notice that he had swept 15-year-old Ami off her feet.
By the time Ami’s family discovered the relationship between Billy, 26, and Ami, 15, it was too late. Ami told her mom that she would marry Billy with or without her permission.
Ami’s mom had hoped that her daughter would have a church wedding in Texas, be able to finish school and attend college (as Billy had promised) and live her life close to her family. However, Billy had other plans.
After the couple got married in 1979 and a short residence in Fort Worth, Billy sold his plumbing business and together the couple traveled across numerous of the lower U.S. states. Eventually, Billy and Ami sold their family truck and tools and spent the money they had to travel to Alaska by ship.
When the family set out to Alaska to find their fortune, Matt was three years old and Joshua had just turned one.
The Brown family’s early life in the Alaskan outback
During the first Alaskan winter and the first 18 months, the Brown family lived in a trapper shack on an island about 50 miles from Wrangell. Once Billy and Ami learned to survive the harsh Alaskan wilderness, the family fell in love with everything.
According to Billy, one night while the family was surrounded by a pack of howling wolves, Matt suggested that the family members should howl back. Matt’s idea worked and the name “wolf pack” for the Brown family was born.
The beginning of ‘Alaskan Bush People’
After the Brown family had grown to seven children and Billy’s American Dream of a life in the Alaskan wilderness had become a reality, the patriarch was eager to share his story with others. In 2007, Billy self-published his book One Wave at a Time in which he told the story of his childhood, being orphaned, and his life in the Alaskan outback.
Like our students, Discovery Channel was intrigued by the Brown family’s life in the Alaskan wilderness. The network turned Billy Brown family’s life in the Alaskan outback into a reality television show and first aired Alaskan Bush People on May 6, 2014.
Since May 2014 …
After having found a fascinated audience, Discovery Channel wasted no time to produce numerous episodes. By June 15, 2014, Alaskan Bush People aired its first five episodes of Season 1. Season 2 consisted of 17 episodes shown between January 2, 2015, and July 31, 2015. Season 3 was expanded to 21 episodes and aired from November 11, 2015, until July 29, 2016.
Since six seasons could make more profit than three seasons, the network later split the 38 episodes from 2015 and 2016 into four seasons. Similarly, since a family “born and raised wild” deep in the Alaskan wilderness sounded more marketable than a family coming from Fort Worth, Texas, the network changed the story of the Brown family altogether.
How much money does the Brown family make?
Even though the Alaskan Bush People cast members are not earning as much as other reality television stars, their net worth is remarkable, at least according to our students.
Billy Brown’s net worth is estimated to be around $500,000. The net worth of all of the Brown family’s seven children is between $40,000 to $60,000 each.
Our students commented that the Brown family’s net worth was a good pay. In addition, our students liked that the cast members got to film in the beautiful Alaskan wilderness and were working together as a family.
The Brown family scandal
The discrepancy between the Brown family’s remote life in the Alaskan wilderness (as presented by Discovery Channel) versus the Brown family’s real life has been the subject for many negative media headlines calling Alaskan Bush People fake.
The Brown family does not continuously live in Alaska but frequently visits other parts of the country, including Hawaii. In fact, Joshua Brown, like his other siblings, is not camera shy. Joshua and his fans love to share photos taken in New York City, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and any other place that he visits.
While Matt, the oldest son of the Alaskan Bush People family has been dealing with alcohol issues and has spent time in rehab, Joshua has proven himself to be quite a remarkable man. In January, 2016, when his family got into trouble with the state of Alaska for lying on Permanent Fund dividend applications, Joshua stood up and – along with his father – pleaded guilty. The guilty plea saved Joshua’s other siblings from having to face any legal consequences.
Court documents in the Brown’s case revealed that the family had not lived in Alaska from 2009 to 2012 despite Billy Brown stating on the application that he had lived there continuously for the past 30 years.
‘Alaskan Bush People’ the human experience
From getting into legal trouble, the family living a fake life in the Alaskan wilderness, to Billy Brown’s early seduction of a minor (his wife Ami), our students had enough material to take the Alaskan bush family apart.
However, our students chose to focus their Alaskan Bush People discussion and research paper on something completely different – something they could themselves relate to.
How much are children supposed to fulfill or continue their parents’ dream?
Matt Brown had shared that he began drinking with friends in Hoonah, Alaska, while the family was filming on the nearby set of Browntown. Matt was a grown man in his early thirties without an apparent girlfriend, without an apparent education or job, and seemingly without a dream of his own.
Matt Brown was three years old when his father pursued his dream to go to Alaska. Now in his thirties, Matt quite obviously still lived his father’s dream by being part of the Alaskan Bush People cast members.
When comparing Matt and Joshua (who was only one year old when the Brown family moved into the Alaskan wilderness), our students thought that it had been easier for Joshua to break away from his father’s dream than for Matt. After all, Joshua had a girlfriend (might even be married to the show’s former producer Allison Kagan) and was travelling all over the states.
After Matt recently spoke out and shared his accident with the refrigerator explosion, our students did raise the question whether Matt’s alcohol problems and accidents were a form of rebellion against fulfilling his father’s dream and being part of the filming of Alaskan Bush People.
With Season 7 reportedly to be the last season, our students were wondering what Matt Brown will do once Alaskan Bush People ends.
Read also: Our students’ update on Alaskan Bush People and Ami Brown’s cancer news.