The Alaskan Bush People show has been a staple on the Discovery Channel since 2014, when Ami and Billy Brown started documenting their family’s life in the wilderness of Alaska. And, while many fans have raised concerns about the authenticity of both the show itself and the behavior of its cast, the fact remains that the family is one to follow these days.
Over eight seasons, the Brown family, which includes Matt, Bam (real name Joshua), Bear (real name Solomon), Gabe, Noah, Snowbird (real name Amora), and Rain (real name Merry), plus parents Billy and Ami, have lived in both the wild and the “big city” as they traverse life as a pack.
The family’s closeness is one of the highlights of the show, as all but one of the “kids” are actually grown—the eldest is in his 30s—and yet they all seem to want to still be together. And while mom Ami has dealt with some health challenges, the entire family rallied around her in her time of need.
It’s enough to make any viewer curious about the Brown family and how they’ve maintained their bond over the years. Here are 20 points about how the family has raised their kids—and how the next generation likely will, too.
20 Family Is Always First
Although the main pack of “kids” now range in age from 16 to 36, all of them have historically stuck close to mom and dad. And, until recently, all of them still lived in the family’s primary “camp,” which they called Browntown.
Also, even though Joshua, AKA Bam, began dating one of the show’s field producers, Allison Kagan, about two years ago, he stuck around through a few more seasons of Alaskan Bush People with the fam. Finally, even younger brother Noah, who wed his girlfriend Rhain in August of 2018, is sticking close to the family through this big change in his life.
19 Not All Siblings Stick Together
Even though the family is pretty tight—including calling themselves “the Wolfpack” as a nickname—the seven kids on the show aren’t dad Billy’s only offspring. Before he met and married Ami, Billy was previously married to another woman with whom he had two kids. Those two—both daughters—were not raised in the bush, In Touch Weekly notes.
Although one of the daughters, Twila, has visited the family in a much-publicized “reunion” episode of the show, the women aren’t close with their younger siblings. And the other daughter, who has a couple of kids of her own, reportedly isn’t on good terms with her dad at all.
18 Responsibility Is Key
For the kids who have lived with their dad Billy in the “bush” since childhood, they learned responsibility at a young age. Family photos show the gaggle of kids out in the Alaska wilderness from toddlerhood, and watching the grown kids today, you can see they’ve honed some serious skills.
Oldest son Matt created a machine for logging, so that the family could cut wood more quickly, and the other brothers built tree houses they could actually live in, strung up electric fences to keep predators away, and learned to catch wild animals for food. Clearly, they’re all at home in the wilderness, however “staged” the reality TV program itself might be.
17 Challenges Are Part Of Life
Watching one of the older seasons of Alaskan Bush People, many were really surprised to see that the matriarch, Ami, refused dental surgery because it would throw off the family’s plans to return to the bush after some time away. They were slated to travel to a new plot of land in Alaska, but the day they were scheduled to leave, Ami made an emergency stop at the dentist.
But armed with some antibiotics and pain treatment, she pushed forward with the family’s move so they wouldn’t be off schedule. Talk about sacrificing for your kids (and the greater good of the whole family)!
16 Nothing Is Guaranteed
Although Alaskan Bush People has tracked the family’s experiences living in the Alaskan wilderness over the years, there have been more moves than were originally anticipated. At first, in 2014, the Discovery Channel reported that the family was moving to set up a new “camp” after their original cabin burned down.
But since then, they’ve had to move a few more times, finding different plots of land, visiting the city for repairs to their boat, healthcare for their parents, and more. But through it all, the kids always keep a balance between taking care of the family’s belongings and property and being there for their mom when she fell ill.
15 Learning Their Own Language
When you first watch the show, you notice that the Brown family doesn’t speak the way your typical US-based clan does. But it’s not a regional accent or dialect; it’s the family’s own quasi-invented “language” that the kids speak. The Discovery Channel maintains that the family was so isolated at times that they developed their own language, but to outsiders, it might sound like the pronunciation is a bit “off.”
Of course, the family also has their own little “codes” for things—like saying “more” when departing instead of “good bye” or “I love you.” According to the family, “more” means something along the lines of “hope to see you more/again.”
14 School? What School?
Though most of the kids were legal adults already by the time the cameras began rolling, the youngest was 12 at the time. Plus, before they became famous for Alaskan Bush People, the Brown family was already living in the bush for at least part of their lives. So it stands to reason that the kids have probably never been enrolled in a traditional school—at least not for a long period of time.
Therefore, they’ve never received a formal education, at least not one that took them straight through their formative years. Of course, they’ve developed plenty of skills and abilities living in the wilderness that have prepared them for the lives they seem to want to lead these days.
13 When In Need, Barter
One of the first episodes of Alaskan Bush People that I watched revolved around two of the brothers sourcing some supplies their family needed for their latest Browntown. I recall being surprised that they literally had no cash to purchase supplies with. Instead, the brothers bartered with people local to them to get the supplies they needed.
But it wasn’t that simple: they traded their abilities and possessions for other items, which they then traded again, and ultimately they got what they needed—a generator for their family’s cabin. Definitely not as simple as heading to the local Walmart for supplies like most kids these days!
12 Not So Extreme Healthcare
Although the family clearly doesn’t visit the doctor often—or the dentist, given Ami’s dental issues one season—it’s not accurate to say that they’ve never relied on modern medicine. And actually, the arguably craziest kid in the clan—Bear—was casted from the chest down as a child after a particularly bad fall, Nicki Swift reported.
Of course, most parents hope that’ll never happen to their kids, but Bear’s parents had to have expected it—if you’ve watched him run freely through the bush and dive head-first into freezing creek water to soak himself to the bone, you’ll see what we mean.
11 Encouraging Exploration
While we don’t know exactly what Bear did to earn his half-body cast, from the show’s filming, it’s obvious there are some risks involved with not only the family’s lifestyle, but also the behavior of the kids.
But Ami and Billy clearly learned long ago that it’s better for the kids to take risks and learn their own limits than to try to keep them on short leashes while out in the bush. And the kids no doubt grew acclimated to the wilderness early in life, if the family photos are any indication, so what we see now on the show is a result of at least a decade’s worth of outdoor exploits.
10 Plenty Of Room For Pets
You might think that because the family is so far removed from civilization, they’d limit family pets for the sake of self-preservation. But that’s not the case. In addition to the cow the family had shipped in during one recent season of the show, they’ve also had plenty of other non-food-producing pets over the years.
According to Nicki Swift, Brown daughter Snowbird had a dozen or more pets at one point, including things like squirrels, and the family also has a dog named Mr. Cupcake. Obviously, their lifestyle is suitable for keeping many kinds of animals, especially those which are naturally occurring in the forest.
9 Growing Up Without Grandparents
Along with the speculation about the show’s authenticity, critics have also pointed out that before he became a household name, Billy had quite the cushy lifestyle in his teen years. In fact, his parents were quite wealthy, Nicki Swift reported, and Billy was gifted plenty of nice things before his parents passed away.
As for Ami, she was estranged from her mother for years, despite the Discovery Channel planning a reunion of sorts—the kids went to Hawaii instead, and apparently had never met any of their grandparents. This adds another interesting element of hardship to the show as a whole.
8 Moving For More Support
As deeply tied as their seven kids are to the land in Alaska, Billy and Ami are obviously the center of their kids’ universe. Both Billy and Ami have had health scares during the time they’ve been filming Alaskan Bush People, and each time something has come up, the whole family willingly relocates to the lower 48 states to help nurse them through it.
The most recent was Ami’s well-documented fight against cancer, which resulted in the family moving to the Los Angeles area temporarily. And while Rain seemed to adapt the best—posting on Instagram and other social media channels during that time—all of the siblings had trouble adjusting to city life.
7 Training The Social Media Generation
Before the Discovery Channel picked the Brown family up and began documenting their lives in the Alaskan bush, a few of the kids were quite committed to their own social media pursuits. A few of the siblings had their own YouTube channels, and part of their activity online was promoting their dad Billy’s books.
Billy has published two novels, one in 2007 and one in 2009, about his experiences and lifestyle both growing up and as a father, husband, and provider for his family in the bush. But the fact remains that the Brown kids weren’t strangers to social media before their lives became reality TV fodder, something that they seem reluctant to admit these days, what with their reputation as wild bush folk.
6 They’re Not Alaskan Natives
While the entire family has lived in Alaska for an untold number of years, the truth is that they’re not Alaska natives. Billy Brown, the patriarch, grew up in Texas, and that’s apparently where he met and married his first wife and had their two daughters.
After he married Ami and they had their first two boys, the couple then moved to Alaska for a stint—although the Discovery Channel, and the family themselves, are reluctant to give a clear timeline. Of course, plenty of people have felt dissatisfied with modern life and turned to the Alaskan wilderness for respite—and the Brown family was the same.
5 Frequent Family Vacays
Although the family’s homestead is in the Alaskan wilderness, around the time that the Discovery Channel arranged a visit with Ami’s estranged (and ailing) mom, the kids were spotted vacationing in Hawaii. And while the family clearly had some financial help in earlier years, thanks to Billy Brown’s inheritance after his parents’ passing, it’s unclear what their income is from the show.
While money may have been tight in the early years, now that the family is getting regular paychecks for their reality TV show, family vacations are becoming more common. Clearly, during the kids’ childhoods, there wasn’t much in the way of flights to Hawaii happening.
4 Living For Reality TV Life
From his two novels pre-Alaskan Bush People and his kids’ social media activity around the same time, it seems like Billy has always had the goal of getting his family’s story out there on his mind. The Discovery Channel show didn’t take off until 2014, but prior to that, Billy already had his two books out and was pushing his family into the spotlight.
In contrast with other reality TV families, though, this one has mostly flown under the radar. The most “drama” the show has revolves around the family’s health and their safety out in the Alaskan wilderness; oldest son Matt experienced a head injury during filming, and bears are a very real threat out in the forest.
3 Wilderness Instincts Start Young
Even though the kids have lived much of their lives in the city, they’ve still had sufficient outdoor experiences to know how to handle themselves when danger arises. From learning how to hunt their own food to developing ways of keeping bears away from their property, the Brown kids learned plenty about navigating life in the bush.
They also learned how to track, with son Bear being particularly adept at finding water no matter where the family travels. Typical city kids these days, though? They don’t have quite the range of outdoorsman abilities the Browns have—including the two girls in the family.
2 Closeness Is Key
Since the Browns first moved to Alaska when their kids were small, it makes sense that they likely co-slept back then. After all, real estate is pretty sparse in Alaska, and the family has had to build their own lodging more than once. Add to that the fact that the Discovery Channel highlights that when the show began filming, the entire family slept together in one room.
Now that the kids are older—and a couple of them paired off or married—that has likely changed. But even though the older kids were ready for their own homes, they were still planning their houses in the same family “compound” on the same plot of land—now slated for Oregon following Ami’s health struggles.
1 Family Is A Tribe
When the Brown’s son Bam—real name Joshua—began dating his long-term girlfriend, it was kept quiet at first. But then, Bam was suddenly absent for a season of Alaskan Bush People, leading viewers to wonder whether the family had had a falling out of some sort. But that wasn’t the case, the Browns explained—Bam was out doing his own thing, and hopefully he’d move back eventually when he was done with his adventures—lady love in tow!
And for Gabe and Noah, the other two sons with partners—Noah now married—they plan to stay close to home to start their own families, carrying the Wolfpack tradition through into another generation.
Sources: In Touch Weekly, Nicki Swift, Discovery Channel