The Discovery Channel‘s Alaskan Bush People centers around a large, rugged, and complicated family known as the Browns. Since May 2014, the docu-series has followed parents Ami and Billy Brown and their kids (Matt, Snowbird, Rain, Bear, Gabe, Joshua "Bam Bam," and Noah) as they navigate living off of the grid in Alaska. Although the Browns have since moved to Washington, they didn’t manage to leave the drama they started in the "Last Frontier" behind. And to be honest, their conflict is more sad than entertaining sometimes.
To make matters worse? It seems like the Brown family is very well-acquainted with the old saying, "When it rains, it pours," because many of their tragedies have occurred simultaneously. If you’re emotionally prepared to go down this dark and twisty road, let’s get started uncovering the tragic details that have come out about the Alaskan Bush People.
Alaskan Bush People fans doubted Ami’s cancer diagnosis
Dealing with a serious medical issue can be tough, which is why it’s pretty upsetting that some fans initially didn’t believe Ami Brown’s cancer battle. It all started when Ami was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer in April 2017, a heartbreaking ordeal that she described to People as "so dark." But after receiving radiation and chemotherapy treatments, the matriarch learned in January 2018 that she was cancer-free, a miraculous feat given that she only had a "three percent chance" of surviving the disease.
Ami’s happiness was short-lived, however, once rumors started circulating that she had made up the diagnosis. "I called it on Twitter that Ami wouldn’t die cuz she never had cancer," one person tweeted. Someone else said: "I mean it’s ALL FAKE even Ami’s cancer scare was scripted."
The backlash eventually became so intense that Ami’s doctor released a statement confirming her medical records, telling People in March 2019: "Amora Brown was diagnosed with Stage III non-small cell lung cancer in April 2017. Treatment for her cancer included a four-month course of chemotherapy with radiation. Her disease responded well to the treatment, and, according to her UCLA oncologist Dr. Deborah Wong, she is now in remission."
Although it’s nice to see that Ami’s doctors stood up for her, it’s sad that they had to do so in the first place.
Billy Brown suffered a health scare during a tough time
Patriarch Billy Brown often comes across as tough and invincible, so it was a little unnerving for his family when, in October 2018, he suffered a health scare. Representatives for Discovery, Alaskan Bush People‘s home channel, confirmed to Country Living that an upper respiratory infection landed Billy in the hospital. The reality star’s son, Bear Brown, also confirmed the news in a since-deleted Instagram post, writing that his dad was in "really bad shape."
Not only can it be difficult to deal with a health problem in the public eye, but Ami Brown was either battling cancer or still recovering from her cancer battle at the time of the incident. We can’t say for certain, but we have a feeling Billy struggled to support Ami as he dealt with his infection. "She doesn’t want to be a burden on someone," Billy said about his wife’s diagnosis, according to People. "That’s not Ami. Ami is to take the burden away and take care of everything, but she has to admit to herself that she can’t be that right now. It’s just time for us to pay it back to her right now, it’s all I think we can do."
Alaskan Bush People star Ami Brown’s sad estrangement
In the midst of Ami Brown’s battle with cancer, she lost her own mother, Earlene Branson, in November 2018. This loss was especially difficult for Ami, because at the time of the 85-year-old’s death, the two were reportedly estranged from one another. "Ami is rather upset about this because she never got the opportunity to reconcile with her mom who tried for years and years to see her daughter," a supposed insider told R Online. "There is nothing that she can do. It’s too late. She’s gone." Ugh, that’s the type of pain that can cut deep.
We’re not sure what led to the pair’s estrangement, but Ami’s brother, Les Branson, blamed the rift on his sister’s husband, Billy Brown. Les claimed that everything went downhill after Ami left the family’s Texas home at age 15 to marry Billy, a man 11 years her senior. "Billy started acting very controlling of Ami from the very beginning," Les told R Online. "I realized that Ami never spoke, Billy did all the talking. She would just kind of sit there beside him smiling. I didn’t realize it then, but she wasn’t allowed to speak. She couldn’t speak without his permission!"
We don’t know if there’s any truth to Les’ claims, but the situation is sad either way. Losing a loved one under strained circumstances is never easy.
Matt Brown’s long battle with addiction
Out of all of the Brown siblings, Matt Brown might have walked the most difficult road. Case in point: Matt reportedly entered a rehab facility three times in the span of three years, starting in spring 2016. "I started drinking lightly and then it got to be more and more," he told People about his alcohol abuse. "That’s when I saw the problem around the corner, and I didn’t want to be one of those guys."
Despite Matt’s best efforts, he ended up returning to rehab in September 2018, a stint that supposedly lasted 30 days. Two months after his alleged departure, Matt reportedly went back to rehab in January 2019. "He was on a bender and took action to save his life," an insider told R Online. "His family is supportive. They are so happy he is safe and focused on his recovery again."
Matt’s story, although common, is painful because no person should have to deal with addiction in the public eye. There’s a good chance the reality star already feels judged enough as it is.
Alaskan Bush People’s Matt Brown endured a horrific accident
Matt Brown has had his fair share of troubles throughout the years, including a terrifying accident involving gunpowder and a refrigerator. Yeah, we’re confused, too.
The reality star’s brush with death went down in May 2017, when he decided to store "a mason jar with gunpowder and cannon fuse" in his home refrigerator, according to TMZ. The mason jar ended up exploding (can’t say we’re too surprised), subsequently blowing the fridge door off of its "hinges." In the process of the explosion, Matt suffered a serious head injury that landed him in intensive care. Doctors had to use nine staples to close his scalp, according to People. Is it just us, or is anyone else feeling a little queasy at the moment?
Matt later said the concoction was supposed to be for bear repellent, adding that he had taken things too far. "I remember bits and flashes like right afterwards grabbing a towel and the tape. I remember taping it to my face as blood ran down my face," he said on an episode of Alaskan Bush People (via People). "Bits and pieces of the paramedics. It was more like a nightmare. Essentially what happened is I got careless. I was alone on my island and there were bears around."
Considering Ami Brown was dealing with cancer at the time, we second Matt’s "careless" comment.
All about Rain Brown’s inner-struggle
Rain Brown, the youngest member of the Brown clan, took to Instagram in October 2017 to admit that she struggled with depression. The reality star began the brave post by describing her symptoms, noting that she had been in bed for "four days" due to unexplained "minor aches and pains" throughout her body. " I couldn’t find out a reason, it bothered me so much, I lost any want to be healthy or motivational, I was just a husk," she wrote.
Rain ended her message on an upbeat note, however, telling fans: "Stay strong my rainbows and listen to your body and soul they know what you need, don’t let your depression or dark feelings try to make you feel bad or people make you feel bad for doing what you know is right for you."
The teen employed some of this optimism again when she unexpectedly lost her beloved cat, Chipmunk, in March 2018. The poor little guy had been run over, but Rain took solace in the fact that she had been able to say goodbye before he died. "We rarely get to say goodbye to our loved ones before they go, but I’m glad I got to pet and hold you one last time before I opened the door to let you into heaven, I know you’re still with me protecting me, and loving me when I’m sad," she wrote, in part, on Instagram.
So many Alaskan Bush People family feuds, so little time
The Brown family is no exception to inner-feuds, with some of the drama spilling over into the public eye. One juicy example? Look no further than a since-deleted Facebook post Noah Brown wrote about his younger sister, Rain, in which he called her out for her supposed laziness. "When you are a child like little Raindrop, you do not have to think about what you are going to eat for dinner or worry about paying bills because your parents do everything for you and you cannot take care of yourself," he penned (via In Touch). "Young Raindrop spends her days cuddling bunnies and playing with her dolls not knowing about the stressful lives of the adults around her." Jeez.
Although it’s not uncommon for siblings to fight — and this is by far the least "tragic" event to befall this seemingly star-crossed clan — it’s sad that Noah took this feud public. But his actions probably don’t come as a surprise to those who’ve followed the family for years — the reality star isn’t a stranger to taking drastic measures, after all. The young dad reportedly moved away from his family because he "had enough of the family drama," and he wanted to raise his son "as far away as possible," according to R Online.
The only thing we can say about this tough situation? We hope the siblings work out their drama in the long run. Family is family, as the saying goes.
Billy and Joshua Brown’s confusing legal drama
When your family is already going through a boatload of drama, it’s probably not the best idea to incite further controversy. Sadly, patriarch Billy Brown and his son, Joshua Brown, didn’t get this memo when they were sentenced to 30 days in jail in 2016 for allegedly falsifying information on Alaska state forms. Here’s what went down: Billy and Joshua, along with matriarch Ami Brown and three of the other Brown children, were charged with "60 counts of first-degree unsworn falsification and first- and second-degree theft" connected to 2010-2013 applications they submitted for Alaska’s Permanent fund, an "annual dividend that is paid to Alaska residents from investment earnings of mineral royalties," according to the Alaska Department of Revenue.
The family received over $20,000 from the fund, despite not living in the state for the required period over three years (2009-2012). Alaska law dictates that residents must live year-round in the state to receive these funds, so the Browns made a big mistake when they allegedly lied on their forms.
Billy and Joshua cut a deal with prosecutors to save their other family members from facing charges, and they each pled guilty to "one misdemeanor count of second-degree unsworn falsification." The deal allowed the two to walk away with 30 days of jail time each (under house arrest), in addition to hefty fines.
Although this situation could be chalked up to a mistake, it’s pretty unfortunate that the family would be in that position to begin with.
Alaskan Bush People’s Matt Brown didn’t attend his brother’s wedding
Longtime fans of the Alaskan Bush People are already well aware of Matt Brown’s struggle with addiction and his multiple stints in rehab. Although his family has seemingly been supportive throughout his journey, it’s possible his issues have begun to wear on the reality TV clan. Matt reportedly did not attend the June 2019 vow renewal ceremony celebrating his brother, Gabe Brown, and his sister-in-law, Raquell Brown, who previously held a secret wedding that January. We’re not sure why Matt didn’t attend, but R Online reported that the wayward son was allegedly entangled in an "ongoing war" with family patriarch Billy Brown, possibly over Matt’s addiction issues or rumored firing from the show. Perhaps having Billy and Matt together at the same event just wasn’t going to work.
What’s even more interesting? Gabe seemingly made it a point to gush about having the support of his family at the ceremony, telling People: "I’m so happy my family, especially my mom, could be by our side on our special day. Raquell is my one true love and we’re really grateful to have met each other. God is good." Let’s hope there’s nothing tragic to read between the lines of that statement. We’d hate to see one of the Brown siblings iced out from the rest of the clan.
Bear Brown and his fiancee have a tumultuous relationship
The romantic life of Alaskan Bush People star Bear Brown is a long, sad, and stressful tale. At the 2018 wedding of Noah Brown, he met model Raiven Adams. In July 2019, they made it newsstand official, announcing to People that they were boyfriend-girlfriend. About a month later, the couple told the magazine that they were to be married. Just two weeks after that, the couple split. "Sometimes people are better as friends and that’s perfectly okay," Brown told People. Complicating their relationship, however: One day after publicly confirming their break-up, Brown and Adams revealed that they were expecting a baby, and eager to co-parent. "Even though we’re no longer together, we’re still friends and dedicated to raising a healthy and happy child," Brown said.
Congeniality and the chance for permanent romantic reunion quickly faded away. On Feb. 10, 2020, according to the Blast, Adams asked for and received a domestic violence protective order against Brown, alleging that her former paramour verbally abused her and had brandished a gun threateningly.
Adams gave birth to son River on March 9, 2020. According to an Instagram post on what is reportedly Brown’s private account (via People), he wasn’t present, learning of the blessed event two days later. In Touch reported that Brown filed legal paperwork to determine whether or not he was River’s biological father, a move the reality star said was in order to "have equal rights as a parent!"
Billy Brown’s secret daughter has been throwing shade
Residing in the spot where reality TV and reality depart, Twila Byars is not a regular Alaskan Bush People cast member, but she is a part of the Brown family that once populated an Alaskan Bush People call sheet for a cameo in 2016. Byars is the formerly estranged daughter of patriarch Billy Brown, the product of a prior marriage in the 1970s. Father and daughter apparently hadn’t spoken in 30 years. R Online reports, however, that they weren’t exactly or totally estranged. A friend of the Brown family told the tab, "They’ve communicated over the years on occasion."
But Byars isn’t exactly warm and supportive of the side of her family tree that appears on the Discovery Channel. In a September 2019 Facebook post, she seemingly addressed her dad’s side of the fam, writing, "I’ve never been the average person, walking with the herd or conforming to the masses. At some point thinking I was somewhat abnormal according to the ‘normal.’" Then came the punchline: "So I had an Epiphany today after reading a few things, that IM ACTUALLY THE NORMAL ONE IN MY D.N.A Lineage! Normal, average and boring never felt so good." Zing!
In another apparent Brown family dig, Byars posted the above selfie to Instagram in 2018, captioning the snap, "Happy Birthday to my little brother Bear Brown, who I haven’t spoken to in awhile for reasons I’m unaware of. Lol."
Where is Alaskan Bush People star Matt Brown?
Alaskan Bush People returned for an eleventh season in 2019. The new batch of installments boasted another, more long-awaited return: that of cast member Matt Brown (above, far right), who, according to People, temporarily broke ties with both family and show in September 2018 in order to enter a rehabilitation for the second time to treat his alcohol dependency. He hadn’t been seen on Alaskan Bush People since the end of Season 8, when he was shown entering a treatment facility.
According to R Online, Brown then left his stint at the Betty Ford Center early and lived on his own in California for a while. A few months later, he really wanted to come back to his kin and their reality TV show on account of how he was in dire financial straits. His father, Billy Brown (above, far left), welcomed his son back into the fold, but on the condition that he stay sober. A source told R Online that such an agreement fell apart when the Browns got into a "heated argument." Although it was reported that they apparently patched things up in time for the shooting of Season 11, Matt never appeared on the show except in flashbacks of previous appearances.
On the bright side, Matt seems to be living his best life away from the bush, having started his own YouTube channel, and frequently updating fans on his Instagram with inspirational messages and updates about his life.
Alaskan Bush People patriarch Billy Brown died after a seizure
As previously mentioned, Alaskan Bush People headliner Billy Brown suffered from several health problems for years, with some of them captured on tape. A 2015 episode of Brown’s Discovery Channel series depicted him having a seizure, which son Joshua "Bam Bam" Brown said happened "every now and then." In addition to the elder brown being briefly hospitalized in late 2018 for an upper respiratory infection (via Country Living), Billy continued to have trouble breathing in the later years of his life, per The U.S. Sun, which doctors said were exacerbated by his choice to live in the high elevation of the Alaskan mountains, coupled with heart and kidney issues.
Tragically, on Feb. 7, 2021, Billy Brown died unexpectedly. His son and Alaskan Bush People co-star, Bear Brown, shared the news — and revealed the circumstances of the death — on his private Instagram account. "We are heartbroken to announce that our beloved patriarch Billy Brown passed away last night after suffering from a seizure," Bear wrote in part (via a screenshot of the post). "He was our best friend — a wonderful and loving dad, granddad and husband and he will be dearly missed. He lived his life on his terms, off the grid and off the land and taught us to live like that as well." Bear added, "We plan to honor his legacy going forward, and to continue with his dream." Billy Brown was 68.