Historians dispute the veracity of Dale's account but nearly all concede that Tecumseh came south to recruit the powerful Creeks to join his cause. Though some doubt the recorded accuracy of Tecumseh's words, the fiery sentiment embedded within them is obvious. With white settlement occurring at a prodigious rate and the rapid decline of traditional practices, such as hunting and trading, many Creeks saw their civilization at a crossroads. It was under these pressures that the National Council met and deliberated. And their conclusions had farreaching consequences. Indeed, it was this body that made the controversial choice to work with agents like Benjamin Hawkins to support limited expansion of the Federal Road, favorable trading arrangements with American merchants, and even annuity payments from the U.S. government to purchase favored hunting grounds for continued white settlement. The National Council and it adherents among the Creeks argued that these policies were the best way to move the Creek peoples into the modern world.
Not everyone agreed. A traditionalist faction of Upper Creeks, later called "Red Sticks" because the clubs they wielded in battle, found Tecumseh's rhetoric appealing. In fact, it was no coincidence that Tecumseh brought his message to Tukabatchee. The village sat squarely on the Tallapoosa river at the southern edge of Upper Creek territory. Indeed, the Red Stick Creeks railed against white acculturation and vowed to maintain a "pure" Creek society. As they saw it, any reception of white culture such as spun cloth, iron pots, or even domesticated animals, was anathema to Creek culture's very essence.
While moderate Creeks might dismiss Tecumseh, the more radical warriors sat in rapt attention, hanging on his every word. "Soon shall you see my arm of fire stretched [towards] the sky," Dale's biographer credits him with warning the Creek council. "I will stamp my foot at Tippecanoe, and the very earth shall shake." True or not, the story creates compelling drama when paired with verifiable events.
On December 16, 1811, the earth shook. A massive earthquake centered at New Madrid, Missouri, shook much of the United States and surrounding territory. It is certainly plausible that many Red Stick Creeks took this as a sign that Tecumseh was right. They must choose either war or cultural extinction and destroy any who stood in their way. Thus, Creeks found themselves facing conflict on several fronts—not only with white settlers, but also within their own population.