What Discovery Wants You To Forget About The Alaskan Bush People

Since the 2014 series premiere of the Discovery reality show Alaskan Bush People, the network has promised that the Browns are "unlike any family in America." That couldn't be more true, but probably not for the reasons the network implied. According to Discovery, when the show debuted, Billy and Ami Brown and their seven children were a "newly discovered family who was born and raised wild," but that might not be entirely accurate. 

For starters, Billy and his son, Joshua "Bam Bam" Brown, were convicted of pretending that they lived in Alaska when they didn't in order to get a benefit check from the state. Another not-quite-truth? The Browns claimed they went deep into the wilderness to build a new home, but their land was actually in a subdivision off a highway and only a half mile from a pizza place. In another eyebrow-raising twist, son Matt Brown was reportedly arrested in 2013 for drunkenly hitting a parked motorcycle with a borrowed car in a Walmart parking lot. 

Read on for more truly shocking tales about the Brown family that you'll most likely never see on Alaskan Bush People.

Their 'deep bush' home was in a subdivision

In the first episode of the series, the Brown family was seen packing its belongings into a trailer and heading north to venture "deeper into the wilderness" in the Copper River basin. Dad Billy said that their five acres of unspoiled land was in the "deep bush."

But, according to the Anchorage Daily News, their "homestead" was actually located in a subdivision that was easily accessible via a dirt road off a highway. In fact, the one-room cabin they eventually constructed was located only half a mile from a local pizza place called Grizzly Pizza!

They even had a next-door neighbor, 46-year-old Jason Hoke, who was reportedly irritated by the noise the production brought to his neighborhood and complained to the Daily News about the sounds of shouting, chainsaws, vehicles, and even helicopters.

The newspaper reported that while the area was wild, like most parts of Alaska, it was "by no means wilderness."

They reportedly ditched 'Browntown' for a hotel

While Alaskan Bush People depicted the family braving the elements in the great outdoors while it built its Hoonah homestead, locals claimed the Browns only slept in their makeshift village, known as "Browntown," when cameras were filming.

According to Radar Online, the reality stars actually lived in a hotel called the Icy Strait Lodge in nearby Hoonah. Sources told the outlet they saw the Browns coming and going at all hours

One charming element of the Browns' mystique is that the family is notorious for living in close quarters. The nine Browns have been filmed living on a boat, in multiple tiny cabins, and sharing a small apartment in Ketchikan that required family members to sleep in closets and under desks, but Hoonah locals claim all of the adult Brown sons had their own rooms at the aforementioned hotel, and son Matt allegedly liked to hang out at the lodge's restaurant and bar trying to pick up girls.

Matt Brown was arrested for DUI

The Browns' eldest son, Matt, was reportedly arrested for DUI. According to a colorful police report cited by Radar Online, he hit a parked motorcycle in a Walmart parking lot in Juneau at 4:30 a.m. on Aug. 30, 2013. He had reportedly picked up a woman earlier in the evening at a local bar and borrowed her car to go get potato chips at the megastore.

A police officer noted that Matt "smelled strong like a homeless person" and was acting strange. The officer wrote, "I asked Brown why he was acting weird, and he said he had Attention Deficit Disorder." Matt also reportedly told officers he "did not know the girl's name, phone number, or where she was."

When officers administered a breathalyzer, Brown reportedly threw up, which was understandable since he allegedly blew a .15 — almost twice the legal limit in Alaska. In February 2014, just a few months before his family's reality show debuted, Matt was reportedly sentenced to three days in jail and 18 months probation.

In July 2016, Matt spoke to People magazine about his drinking problem, revealing that he spent 35 days in rehab earlier that year. He told the magazine, "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." He added, "I learned a lot about myself in those 35 days. I've turned my weakness into a strength."

Billy Brown has a second family

Much is made of Billy and Ami Brown's enduring marriage and tight-knit family bonds on Alaskan Bush People, so fans were shocked when news broke that Billy had another family not mentioned on the show.

Radar Online reported in 2016 that Billy had gotten married at age 16 to a 17-year-old in his native Texas, and the pair had two children. According to sources, Billy was not involved with the children when they were growing up. In a 2016 episode of Alaskan Bush People, Billy told his other seven children that he had reconnected with Twila, one of the kids from his first marriage. Twila visited the family in a later episode.

Billy claimed that he had wanted to take Twila with him when he left Texas, but said in an episode, "It was made very clear that was not an option." He claimed that he and Ami had sent letters that were never given to Twila, adding that being separated from her had "haunted [him] every day of [his] life.

After they reconnected, Billy revealed, "All the years we were trying to find her, she was trying to find us."

Ami Brown was only 15 when she married 26-year-old Billy

After Billy's split with the mother of his oldest two children, he married Ami Brown in Texas after a whirlwind courtship.

According to a marriage license obtained by Radar Online, Billy was 26 at the time of the wedding, but Ami was only 15 years old. Back then, girls of that age reportedly required parental consent in order to get married in the state of Texas, so Ami's parents must have approved, theoretically. 

Ami went on to give birth to seven of Billy's children, and Radar reported that she started young, giving birth for the first time when she was still a teenager. While her marriage to Billy began early in her life, it has endured for more than 35 years and counting.

Billy has at least three daughters  — Snowbird and Rain with Ami, and Twila from his first marriage — and we can't help but wonder if he'd approve of them getting hitched at age 15.

One of the kids is dating a former show producer

Billy and Ami's second-eldest son, Joshua "Bam" Brown, revealed to People in February 2017 that he had fallen for a "city girl." In his words, "She's stirred something inside me and made my soul wake up."

Several media outlets identified his significant other as a former producer for Alaskan Bush People named Allison Kagan. During a trip to see his family in July 2017, Bam tweeted, "So grateful for my girlfriend Alli. I'm blessed that she is here with my family. ... Love conquers all."

In November 2017, he shared more details in a Facebook post, writing: "Since everyone keeps asking, Alli and I have been dating for a year (November 2016). When I visited New York that summer we were still just friends."

He and Alli are planning to live in a renovated ferry boat. According to a post on his Facebook, "The boat idea came to us when we were on the Staten Island ferry ... and how cool it would be to have a space that large and also be on the water! Alli searched and found the old ferry just before she was going to be sold for scrap! We have been gutting and renovating her ever since."

Their neighbors aren't their biggest fans

At least as long as they've been filming Alaskan Bush People, the Browns have rubbed some of their neighbors the wrong way.

When they were building their homestead in the Copper River Valley, their next-door neighbor Jason Hoke was so irritated by the noise that he fired fireworks at a production helicopter, reported the Anchorage Daily News

Hoke claimed the aircraft was hovering just over the trees in his yard. "The entire house is shaking; my youngest boy Ethan, who was about 4 at the time, is crying," he recalled. Hoke claimed he tried to wave the helicopter away and then resorted to using mortar fireworks to get it to leave. He told the Daily News that he "decided to shoot a couple in the air, not in the vicinity, and let them know 'Hey, get away from my house!'"

According to Radar Online, things weren't much better when the Browns filmed Season 8 in the town of Omak in Washington state. One local reportedly told Radar, "Omak is a small conservative town. We're not like Hollywood and we don't like strangers running around."

They're not 'Alaskan' bush people anymore

The Brown family members have described themselves on the show as nomads, and they've certainly lived up to that title in the years since it began airing. Before the reality show, the family claimed to have lost its first one-room cabin when the government burned it down because it was built on public land, so the brood moved north to the Copper River basin.

But the Browns left that homestead a short time later after they claimed to have heard gunshots near their home. They migrated south to Ketchikan, living on boats and in the city before buying a second homestead that they named "Browntown," located near Hoonah.

When mom Ami was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer in 2017, the family moved to Southern California so she could receive treatment. (She reported in January 2018 that she was thankfully cancer-free.)

The Browns said they were going to establish a new homestead in the wilderness of Colorado, but they reportedly ended up buying property in Washington state, where they filmed Season 8 of Alaskan Bush People.

Matt almost blew his own head off

Eldest son Matt Brown suffered an accident that could have ended his life when he injured his head in an explosion.

He was reportedly alone in "Browntown" at the time because his family was in Southern California for mom Ami's cancer treatments. According to People, he was trying to make a bear deterrent using black powder. "The bears were really bad. I just got overly paranoid in the situation and took it a little too far," he said.

The Alaskan Bush People crew filmed his evacuation for television, and in the gruesome video, Matt is seen bleeding profusely from the head. Paramedics opt to evacuate him, fearing that he may have fractured his skull and could be at risk for a brain injury. As the team carries him out on a stretcher, Matt can be heard saying, "I lost a little bit of blood, didn't I?"

People reported that Matt was airlifted to a hospital in Juneau and treated in the ICU, but just a few days later, he was well enough to fly south to rejoin his family in Southern California.

Two family members were convicted of lying about living in Alaska

In Alaska, most residents who have lived in the state for at least a year are entitled to a yearly Permanent Fund Dividend check, which is drawn from oil and gas industry revenues. The benefit is nothing to sneeze at — in 2017, each qualified resident was paid $1,100. According to the Anchorage Daily News, in September 2016, six Brown family members were charged by a grand jury with 60 counts of first-degree unsworn falsification and first and second-degree theft for lying on their PFD applications. 

Scott Stair with the Alaska Bureau of Revenue told the Daily News that Billy and Ami Brown and four of their adult children allegedly lived outside of Alaska for more than half the year during a period between 2009 and 2012, and thus were ineligible for dividend checks.

Ultimately, Billy and his second-eldest son, Joshua, took one for the team — each pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of second-degree unsworn falsification in exchange for charges against the other four family members to be dropped. Billy and Joshua were sentenced to 30 days in jail but were able to serve their time by staying in Juneau, Alaska, and submitting to electronic monitoring with ankle bracelets.

In a clip, Billy acknowledged that he pleaded guilty, but claimed the family members were innocent, implying that their prosecution was connected to their off-the-grid lifestyle.