Do the Alaskan Bush People get paid? We asked!

Alaskan Bush People Discovery Channel

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The possibility had been on the table for a while, and I finally took up the opportunity to do a phone Q&A with the entire Brown family of Discovery Channel’s Alaskan Bush People.

I didn’t know what to expect, and I wasn’t exactly sure what I’d do with the interview after it was done. I knew it definitely wouldn’t be a promotional puff piece. The Browns are a family with a lot of off-camera issues, and there are so many inconsistencies between what we’ve seen on TV and what’s been reported publicly, that I wouldn’t be doing my job if I ignored them. Viewers and readers have many questions, and I was hoping to give them answers. I also wanted to give the Browns the opportunity to tell their side of the story and respond to critics and allegations. I figured there was a snowball’s chance I’d get answers, but there would be zero chance if I didn’t ask.

So here’s my Q&A with the Browns.

Channel Guide Magazine: Billy, Browntown is starting to expand in Season 3 with the boys all building homes of their own. But there seems to be some more competition for space and resources. In the first episode you run out of lumber because —
Billy: Very mild way to put it. What seemed like a very empty forest all of a sudden is a very busy neighborhood and our neighbors are quite rowdy.

The family’s always cooperated. How do you balance that cooperation and competition?
Billy: Really there’s not much we can do about it. It just makes it were you can’t relax very much, is what it really boils down to. Because we like living with the bears. We all do. But it gets to the point sometimes where there’s just so many, and so many come at you at once. At certain times of the year, it’s unrelenting. It really is. And it just gets to where, to be honest with you, it gets to be a real hassle because every time you walk out of the house, you’ve got to deal with a bear. And when you’re dealing with them, you never really know what kind of bear you’re dealing with, if he’s a friendly, or just looking around or if he’s just downright hungry. So it makes it a real hassle.

[I realize here that Billy probably misunderstood the question due to a problem with the volume on their speakerphone.]

I guess my question was more about in the family with the boys having their own cabins. The family’s always cooperated, but now you’re in a situation where the boys are building their own homes, they’re kind of competing against each other for resources within the family. You run out of lumber. How do you balance that cooperation with that sense that they need to become their own individuals?
Bam Bam: Basically, it’s the same that we’ve always been, because there’s always that little bit of competition between brothers or siblings. It’s just a different form of competition, I guess. But we’re all real ready to help each other when there’s the lumber shortage and stuff like that to give each other what they would need. There’s definitely that bit of competition for us to try and finish your one place first or your project first or something like that.
Ami: We as parents basically just sit back and referee and try to help them settle any discrepancies they might have.

Ami, there was a lot of unexpected drama last season when your brother and mother tried to contact you. Can you tell us if there has been any further attempts to contact them or any attempt at reconciliation?
Ami: Well, my mother, she sent me a necklace, but I haven’t contacted back yet. No, there’s been no contact whatsoever.

Ami, how are you feeling? How are the teeth? That was a big issue that you dealt with last season.
Ami: They’re perfectly wonderful, and I’m quite pleased that that’s all settled.

How does it feel being recognized by people or tourists when you’re in Hoonah? That’s probably something that you’ve never had to deal with before.
Ami: No, I’ve never had to deal with anything like that before. But everyone that I’ve met and we’ve met being out, everyone is so nice and has the kindest things to say.

Matt, I love Kenny from the junkyard. I think Kenny needs to become an honorary member of the Brown family. I could just watch you and Kenny bulldoze stuff in the junkyard all day. Would you consider doing a spinoff show or going into business with him?
Matt: [Laughs] I might consider it! I don’t know. He’s a heck of a character, though, isn’t he? He’s a good guy.

He is. He’s kind of crazy, but he’s really actually very witty and clever in the stuff that he says.
Matt: Yeah, that’s it. That’s a bush boy for you. We might be totally loco, but we still have a few things rattling around upstairs.

How’s the tire hut?
Matt: Not bad. I recently had a bear push down one of my walls. But that’s the advantage of building with tires. Something knocks them over, you can just restack it.

I am a huge fan of The Skiff. I think The Skiff is like the greatest boat ever made. How is The Skiff doing and how does The Skiff end up putting out a fire?
Gabe: We ended up dumping a skiff full of water after we had thawed the ice that was in it. And we dumped the skiff full of water onto the fire to put it out.

I was concerned that there might have been a fire in The Skiff at first, but I’m glad that’s not the case. Of all the boats that you guys have owned, The Skiff has been the most reliable.
Gabe: It’s gotten us where we’re going. There always seems to be something with it. It always seems to be breaking down or that kind of thing.

Billy, how’s the shipping business going?
Billy: Actually, it’s going pretty good. We’ve been kind of amazed with it especially with all the hassles we’ve had and everything else. But it’s going pretty good.

Any big fixes or upgrades to the Integrity?
Billy: It’s just a lot of small stuff. It’s just constant, like with the old boat.

So the hull is fixed permanently?
Billy: Well, for now.

Billy, you’ve said many times that living in the bush is the ultimate freedom. I guess I’ve always wondered why you would want to live life in the public eye and give up your privacy and have a television show if in fact you want that ultimate freedom?
Billy: We were naïve. I think that was it. [Laughs] We didn’t know. We didn’t realize what would happen. We were naïve, I think. We really thought that maybe we could just show people our world and that would kind of be the end of it. We didn’t realize that it would build up where it was, to where our world kind of became everyone’s world. It’s still cool. It’s a little bit more than we expected.

[A Discovery Channel representative declined to have the Browns comment on the last three questions below because they involved legal matters and wages.]

Billy, there are many viewers who are concerned for your family, and believe that you’re forced to live in the bush because you’re poor or something. Some readers have wanted to know how to send you money or care packages. Is the family compensated for the show by Park Slope or Discovery Channel?

Billy, I saw video of an altercation that your family had with I believe some of the Skaflestads on a dock in Hoonah. Can you tell us what happened in that incident — how it was started and how it got resolved?

Lastly, Billy, I wanted to give you the opportunity to tell your side of the story regarding the allegations that the family illegally claimed the Alaskan Permanent Fund dividend. Do you have any comment on those allegations?

I got to talk about The Skiff, Kenny from the junkyard, Ami’s teeth and why they would do this show in the first place, so I hope that was informative and entertaining for longtime readers of the recaps. Obviously, there are a million more questions I coulda/shoulda asked: What really went down in Chitina? What really went down with The Opal? Who really owns the land on which Brownton Abbey is built? How are the accommodations at the Icy Strait Lodge? Who’s shooting your deer? What’s up with the fishing licenses? Why did Bear shave? Why does Rainy now look like a Bush Goth Tween?

And what kind of jackass writes a clickbait headline asking a question that doesn’t actually get answered in the article?

Sorry, guys. I tried.


  1. I love this show and everyone on it, I feel like they are part of my family and cant wait till the next show comes on. so sad to hear about the trials they have going on and pray it goes well. I hope the judge just makes them pay it back and that’s it. billy is too old to go to jail, and what would the family do if they went to jail??????????

    • Wow. You think that fairness in the judicial system is if you get caught lying in a sworn statement, and then get caught stealing money that you should just be able to pay back what you stole and everything is completely honky dory? Ummm, ok. So why shouldn’t every one of us go do a robbery today because all we face if caught is we have to give the money back? Not exactly how the court system in this country works.
      You are not understanding what the Browns were charged with. They lied on legal documents that were sworn statements and stole well over $10,000 of public money. This wasn’t grabbing a $1 out of somebodies tip jar. Billy alone was accused of a whopping 24 felonies, I repeat, FELONIES that could have put him in prison for 120 years. This was big time theft and lying. They are trying to take a plea agreement to reduce their penalties and hope to avoid jail time. It is going to come down to a judge today to decide if they should or shouldn’t go to jail. If Billy is too old to go to jail (there is no age limit on jail BTW) then maybe a good idea is to not get caught stealing public money. Guess he should of thought of that huh?
      If you want to pray for his well being good for you. My personal suggestion is pray for the million of displaced men, women and children around the world that are being displaced from their homes because of a vicious war that is not of their doing. That is true human suffering. How about go down to a kids cancer ward and hold their hand and pray for them? You saw the Browns on TV so now somehow you feel vested in their lives. You seem to be failing to realize Annice that with what they are charged with (not even living in Alaska), they have been lying to you the whole time. 99% of what you watch the Browns do on TV is just as made up for the camera and never happened so they can get paid money. I am sorry but I can’t see anything less deserving of somebodies prayers.

      • Wow Dave, you seem to take my ( in fun ) little comment very personal. I know you do not have a clue as to what I really think about anything. I will say a prayer for you Dave, prayer is never wasted on anyone in need. Most people,( myself included ) do know this is a TV show we are talking about. I feel sorry for the ones who thought this was real life and are finding out now that it is just made for TV entertainment. As for their legal issues, really, is it a concern to anyone but the Browns. I don’t think so!

        • Sorry I missed the part of your response that was so fun. I just read you think they should pay the money back and go scott free. How you feel like they are a part of your family and you love them. Certainly that doesn’t seems like somebody that has an “ah, it is just a television show, and I can take it or leave it”. Now on the other hand if it was all sarcasm, then yes, I didn’t get that. The fun of written word with a total stranger.
          Is the legal issues anybody’s business but their own? OH YES! Read their statement. They are apologizing to all citizens of Alaska because they stole from all of us. So as an Alaskan, the Browns stole from me personally. Try reading up on the facts of this case and what they are pleading guilty to. Good reading. That and the fact that by pleading guilty to not even living in Alaska they are basically telling you, in their own words, that the ABP show is just a made up fairly tale, and they have been lying to everybody the whole time in order to enrich themselves.

          • Again it is a TV show, who cares if it is made up. I will keep watching it as long as it is on because it is very entertaining to me. They have apologized to everyone in Alaska.! I sure hope when they pay the money back, You get your share of the free money the STATE PAYS YOU to live there real fast. Maybe then you can get over it Dave. So Glad you chose me, a stranger, a 62 year old woman to be such a ugly person to, hope it made you feel good. so glad I do not live in Alaska. I am done with you now because I do not like your attitude at all.

  2. For all of you superfans that love this hard working honest family (greeting my teeth even writing that) they pled guilty today to lying about living in Alaska and stealing money from the State and citizens of Alaska. Here is the story. The judge is deciding tomorrow weather to agree to the plea deal, or send them to prison.

    So much for the hard working close family that everybody can look up to like some people seem to believe because they saw them on TV. They are admitted liars and thieves. Sorry if I am not sugarcoating it but facts are facts. This show was as fake as a $3 bill from the first episode that ever aired. The reaction I am getting up here in Alaska from what I can tell today is people are outraged if the plea deal is accepted by the judge and they do no jail time. We will see what happen tomorrow.

  3. I liked how you gave Kenny and the Skiff the praise they deserve! You hit them with the hard questions too, but of course Discovery wouldn’t allow them to answer those. And the Browns probably wouldn’t either in order to preserve their income from Discovery Channel. Anywho, I would have asked them how they have enjoyed their time at the Hoonah Lodge and why they depend on so many items from town even thought they supposedly want to live off the land…

  4. Why do all the kids talk like they have a frog in their throats?
    Have any of them had any formal education/schooling?
    Have they even lived in a town/city for more than a just a few days?

  5. I love this show so much ! It reminds me of how hard my family worked in the 1930’s & 1940’s just to have the every day things we needed to survive. If my parents were still alive I know they would of love it too.


  7. Same thing happened with us in a recent Q&A. They refused to answer any pertinent question. However, when asked what was their favorite meal was they did answer that one.

    • I love the brown family…they really show what family could do together..when raise them with love,care,respect,Lord Jesus,chores when they are young not to be afraid of hard work…they communicate and collaborate she taught them that as parents..they show them what’s important about family and what’s more important love life being together. I love them..would love meet them…am 62…would love Alaskan man I’ve been single 10 years..chose to be single because of all the bad relationships I had before….but am praying on one…I love the Brown family and I pray for them everyday may God watch over you and keep you safe amen..

      • Are you aware they have been charged with more than 60 counts of felony fraud and they are going to court this Wed., Nov. 18th for a change of plea hearing. I am so sorry that you have been deceived.

  8. Ryan… What happened? …Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria! <–Ghostbusters quote. You had Billy "BS" Brown in your sights and you tossed him softballs?!?! OMG! PLease let us know this was one of those 'Network Controlled, Henry Ford, you can ask any question you want as it's in this list of questions' interviews. I can't believe the greatest television satirist of our generation passed on so many obvious digs!

      • Ryan, I think you did a great job. You slyly praised The Skiff and you even said the word “teeth” to a Brown family member, which I am sure is a sore subject, pun intended.

        If I could have asked a few questions (things I think discovery would have allowed) I would have asked a few I know you would have liked to ask as well:
        1. Why did you give so many of your children weird names?
        2. Why did you continue to have so many children when you admittedly had to bathe your kids in an old Coleman cooler?
        3. If you want grandbabies, then why don’t you make your boys shave, get their teeth fixed and whitened, bathe, and look more attractive to the opposite sex? Get Matt therapy perhaps?
        4. Here’s a thought: give Birdie some girl clothes a makeover (I personally would love too) fix her teeth in front and I bet she could produce the first beloved grandbaby. However, Rainy is putting on enough makeup for both of them, maybe Rainy with be married with kids at 18.
        5. Why doesn’t Billy ever do any work? At least Ami picks berries and teaches school with twigs.

        Inquiring minds want to know these important things.

  9. I love the show. it is nice to see family this close and be able to set aside differences, not hold on to grudges and let things fester. there will always be neigh out there. Keep up your strong beliefs in God and the love for each other and stay strong.

  10. It’s great to see how you all stick together . Family is so important. Just lost my brother , we were very close
    Don’t let negative comments get to you. It would be great to talk to one of you. No personal questions. Wish all a happy life.

  11. I absolutely love the t.v. show. I have been following the Brown family from the beginning. They are living the life that most of us would love to do. Get off the grid and live life, we don’t need all the stuff we think we need. The simpler your life is the happier you’ll be.

  12. Hello family…I really don’t care what others say or think…I really enjoy the shows and family..I go to bed watching every night..Thank God for reruns and being able to tape the show…God Bless

  13. Hi everybody, I want to thank you for sharing your lives with us. I live here in Maine, and do my share of hunting., so following you on your journey, I find particularly interesting. Your program is very interesting, and I do so appreciate the differences in your children, Ami. I was blessed with 9, 5 sons and 4 daughters….what a challenge! They are all grown now….Looking forward to another season. Stay happy, Praise God.

  14. I really love this family. I enjoy watching everything they do. They make make me feel peaceful. I have learned a lot on survival. I would love to be a part of the Brown family. I wish I could meet them in person and visit often. I love them all. maybe I’ll win the lottery and visit Brown town. What ever fact or fake who cares I will keep loving this family. God bless them all.

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About Ryan Berenz 1947 Articles
Devotee of Star Wars. Builder of LEGO. Observer of televised sports. Member of the Television Critics Association. Graduate of the University of Wisconsin. Connoisseur of beer. Consumer of cheese. Father of two. Husband of one. Scourge of the Alaskan Bush People. Font of Simpsons knowledge. Son of a Stonecutter.