• Ricko DeWilde is a TV personality, entrepreneur, artist and family man, living in the Alaskan wilderness.
• He has suffered several tragedies in his family, including the death of his sister Riba, and his brother Alan in an accident.
• He suffered addiction issues in the past, yet he is now clean and away from drugs for over 15 years.
• Ricko is an environmentalist and an activist for the rights of Native Americans, advocating for the regulation of commercial fishing of salmon to protect the species.
• He often passes on his cultural traditions and knowledge to his five children, and enjoys his time in the wilderness with them.
Surviving in the wild is one thing, but doing so while facing icy weather and the lack of food sources is a level of complexity that very few people can accomplish. Some of those extremely difficult situations are seen in “Life Below Zero”, which shows through the stories of its cast, what it really means to live in the Alaskan wilderness.
While all the hardships and struggles faced by everyone in “Life Below Zero” are almost heartbreaking to see, the story of Ricko DeWilde is undoubtedly one of the most tragic but inspiring ones in the show.
So where is Ricko DeWilde now and what happened to him? Stay here to know what’s up with Ricko’s life, his personal and family tragedies, environmentalist efforts, his lifestyle and so much more!
What’s Up With Ricko These Days?
Dangers are always a constant when people decide to spend a life off the grid. While that’s something “Life Below Zero” fans know well, that doesn’t stop them from worrying about the well-being of the show’s cast members.
Nevertheless, fans would be happy to know that not only is Ricko DeWilde doing well these days, but also that he’s still in the show, as seen during the 20th season of “Life Below Zero” premiered in late 2022.
Besides his life as an outdoorsman and TV personality, Ricko is involved with environmental causes and helping out his community. As seen on his social media accounts, Ricko often raises his voice on important political and wildlife issues in his native Alaska, as well as organizing fundraising campaigns for people in need in his community.
Also a dedicated family man, Ricko has taken it upon himself to teach his children the necessary skills to survive in remote areas of Alaska, often showing pics of the quality time he spends with his loved ones on social media and in the show.
What Happened To His Family?
Besides knowing about Ricko DeWilde’s struggles living in one of the most remote places in Alaska, the audience of “Life Below Zero” has also seen his family’s tragedies. Nonetheless, while the enduring times he has been through aren’t few, by far the most talked-about event in Ricko’s life was the death of Riba, his sister.
Riba was a notable artist in her community of the remote town of Tok in Alaska. Specialized in Athabascan beading and mixing her work with fur and bones, Riba made a living out of her crafts through local exhibitions and online selling.
Despite Riba’s remarkable artistic talents, her mental health issues affected her life in many ways. According to her brothers Ricko and Victor’s words to Anchorage Daily News, Riba suffered from paranoid episodes, and was very agitated at times, landing her in hospital in 2015 after a serious breakdown.
However, Riba met her unfortunate end on 26 November 2016 at 51 years of age, when her son Eli Simpson shot her to death in her Tok home. According to reports, it was the then 21-year-old Eli who reported the incident to the local police right away, claiming that he’d suffered abuse from Riba since childhood, and that he was defending himself when he shot her with a rifle.
What Happened To Eli?
To this day, Eli Simpson is still in jail but his case has been complicated, as his trial was delayed for several reasons after being charged with first and second-degree murder in 2017.
According to reports, in 2017 Eli was involved in a riot with other 13 inmates at Fairbanks Correctional Center, resulting in other charges being added to his case. That incident also resulted in the replacement of his public defender, followed by issues such as his assigned judge’s retirement, several hearing delays, and schedule problems related to the COVID-19 restrictions.
After five years in confinement during which he wrote his motions, in mid-2022 Eli Simpson pleaded guilty to the second-degree murder of his mother, and third-degree criminal mischief for the 2017 riot at his correctional center. Besides agreeing to drop other charges in his case related to both crimes, it was also agreed that Eli wouldn’t serve more than 20 years in jail.
Nonetheless, NewsMiner reports that Eli felt the deal was unfair, something his brother Wesley Scott Cruikshank agreed with, affirming Eli’s rights had been ‘abused’ and left no option but a plea deal: ‘We support our brother, and we wish that he could have gotten a little bit of a fairer deal than what he got’, he told the site. It’s unclear what Eli’s sentence is.
Besides Riba’s murder, other unfortunate events have hit Ricko’s DeWilde as well.
Such was the case of Ricko’s older brother Alan, who sadly died in the 1990s in an accident. As Ricko has commented on “Life Below Zero” episodes from the 15th season, Alan had accidentally shot himself in his hand while staying alone in a remote cabin up the mountains. Despite trying to patch himself up, the injury was too serious, and Alan bled to death – his body was found by Ricko and his father days later. His grandmother and another sister also died around that time.
Other tragedies suffered by Ricko included the death of his mother Amelia in 2003, and his father Lloyd in 2006. The circumstances in which they died haven’t been revealed by Ricko, but it’s known that both of them were expert survivalists and homesteaders, having spent decades living near the Huslia River, where they raised 14 children.
While tragedies and misfortune aren’t strange concepts for Ricko, his experiences encouraged him to help others. That’s how he invented the Go-Flow, a hook artifact made to recover bodies from under the ice: ‘Everyone who grows up in rural Alaska near rivers knows that looking for bodies is part of life,’ he told Anchorage Daily News in 2016. Though his Go-Flow invention doesn’t save lives per se, it’s allowed Ricko to lend a hand to those in need for many years.
Losing several members of his family in the course of a couple of years is something that Ricko DeWilde unfortunately experienced, but it’s not the only life struggle he’s been through.
As it happens, addiction was once a big issue in Ricko’s life. According to an interview he gave Cowboys Indians in 2019, growing up in a remote area of Alaska with no electricity or common artifacts, meant that he was amazed when he finally moved to Fairbanks later in life. His naivety and the fast pace of his new city weren’t a good combination, making him feel lonely and eventually resulting in an addiction to oxycodone.
Describing his state at the time, Ricko compared his loneliness to an airport with no exits, feeling trapped once he fell into his substance-abuse situation: ‘I can do something with my life, but this thing’s got me. It’s a very defeated feeling’, he admitted.
At some point in the early 2000s, Ricko was charged with cocaine possession, and spent a couple of years in jail. Nonetheless, those dark days are in the past now, and Ricko has been away and clean from drugs for over 15 years.
Ricko’s Art & Entrepreneurship
As a way to portray his love for his community, family, and culture artistically, Ricko DeWilde founded his brand HYDZ. The idea came up in 2007, when his family celebrated a Potlatch, an Athabascan Indian ceremony honoring deceased family members by hosting a feast, and giving the possessions once owned by them to other family members and friends.
Thinking of a good way to honor his loved ones as well, Ricko designed artistically printed sweaters to represent his family’s strength, his culture’s beauty, and the respect he felt for it through illustrations of feathers, animals, and ancient tools and weapons: ‘I wanted something very strong to symbolize the strength and Native values that I was taught by these important people, who had come to pass in my family’, he said in an interview with the Athabascan Woman Blog.
He gave out all the sweaters during the Potlatch for free, then received requests to produce more of these in the following months, encouraging him to start his brand.
Nowadays, HYDZ is active both physically and online, selling not only sweaters but shorts, hats, and accessories. The name HYDZ comes from the hides used in Native Americans’ traditional clothing, and the message on its designs represents Ricko’s culture, where he comes from, and the teachings of those who’ve passed away.
His Family Now
Ricko DeWilde is a dedicated family man who does his best to pass down his cultural traditions and knowledge to his five children. While his youngest kids might appear too young to go on hunting or fishing trips, they all take part in Ricko’s trips through the Alaskan wilderness.
Being in the show has helped Ricko in connecting further with his children, as he confessed to teaching them by just watching him in the past: ‘the questions the kids ask helps me explain to the audience, so in the end it’s taught me to be even more patient with my kids’, he said in an interview with EricNestor.com.
Regardless of being busy with the show, his entrepreneurship, and his activism, it’s admirable how Ricko has found a way of spending quality time with his children.
While Ricko DeWilde’s lifestyle is explored through “Life Below Zero”, his knowledge about nature, hunting, fishing, and trapping doesn’t come out of nowhere.
Growing up in a homestead too far away from any town is not the usual standard for any kid, yet that’s how Ricko and his 13 siblings grew up. Born to an Athabascan Indian woman and a white Californian man who moved to Alaska in mid-century, Ricko lived around 100 miles away from Huslia, was home-schooled, and had only natural resources to eat and keep warm, leaving him no option but to find his own path in the world. Nonetheless, his mother played a huge role in that.
As Ricko recalled in an interview with Hollywood Soapbox, it was his mother Amelia who taught him to respect nature, even when it came to hunting: ‘It’s a whole belief system, too, how to not disrespect animals, how to not waste meat because an animal provided something for you’, he said, emphasizing how those beliefs are inherited generation after generation in his culture.
Moving away from the homestead with no pipeline system and electricity, to study in a close and seemingly modern town, Ricko’s appreciation for his mother’s traditions goes surprisingly well with his enjoyment of modern life.
Being an entrepreneur, artist, TV personality, and a family father at the same time is a busy life, yet Ricko DeWilde manages to do it even on top of being an activist as well – as such, Ricko advocates for the rights of Native Americans, and to solving environmental issues in Alaska. Back in the day, Ricko joined the social movement Fairbanks Four, and more recently favored Proposition 140, which looked to regulate commercial fishing of salmon to protect the species and the Yukon and Kusko Rivers.
Detractors aren’t an unknown concept for Ricko, though. Splitting his time between the city and the place up the mountain where he grew up, means that fingers from different sides are pointed at him in accusatory ways: ‘I can easily piss off the white people or the government because they think I’m saying, ‘You guys made us like this’,’ he admitted in an interview with Cowboys Indians: ‘Then I can easily piss off the Natives, because they’re saying, ‘You’re saying we’re lazy and we don’t do enough’, he confessed.
All in all, being involved in social causes isn’t making Ricko’s life any easier, yet he’s still committed to it.
Thrilled to welcome Sue Aikens and Ricko DeWilde from @LifeBelowZeroTV all the way from Alaska to LA for a special FYC screening and panel @TelevisionAcad with our partners @NatGeoTV on the Life Below Zero franchise produced by @BBCStudiosLA. pic.twitter.com/CUjp0PyY2w
— BBC Studios Press – U.S. (@BBCStudiosUSPR) May 11, 2022
Life In A TV Show
Passing from being a normal person to becoming a TV personality overnight could be a huge change for many people, yet Ricko DeWilde’s apparently adapted to it as easily as he can. As seen on his social media, he often still goes on hunting trips ,while also maintaining what most would think a normal life in the city.
Nonetheless, when cameras are on, things change a little for him. Besides taking advantage of his “Life Below Zero” crew by hearing their stories, getting to taste different food than the one he’s used to, and drinking gourmet coffee every morning, Rick also takes responsibility for looking over them: ‘It’s basically having a group of guys in the woods who have no business being there – I do like the company of them and I learn a lot from them’, he told EricNestor.com in 2020.
Ricko is undoubtedly an interesting “Life Below Zero” star, yet he’s certainly more than just the man we see on TV.