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I'm running a campaign set in Chult. In making sure I know the setting well, I came across this entry on the Forgotten Realms wiki, which notes This article is about the tribe of Chultan humans. For the race of humanoid felinids, see Tabaxi., and goes on to explain:

"Tabaxi" was also a term given to a race of humanoid jaguars found in both Chult and Maztica. It has been suggested that this was an error in naming. The explanation was that an explorer from Cormyr saw a Tabaxi tribesman dressed in ceremonial garb of panther skin and was told by a guide that the man was a Tabaxi. Misunderstanding what the guide meant, this explorer assumed that all cat-men were called "Tabaxi".

In actuality the Cormyrean explorer was not far off from the truth. The human tribesmen named their people after the enigmatic feline-humanoids.

This is also covered in Who was this character from the Tomb of Annihilation adventure before they became a monster?, which references Dragon+ magazine article which appears to confirm some of this, at least as far as metagame history goes.

But, the actual in-print 5E book covering Chult, the Tomb of Annihilation adventure, doesn't mention this at all. Instead, the human natives are referred to as "Chultans", and the only references to "Tabaxi" are to the feline kind:

Tabaxi are feline humanoids, originally native to the western continent of Maztica. Some Chultans refer to them as “cat folk” or “leopard people.” Groups of tabaxi wound up in Chult after escaping from slavers. They are a cultured people and seldom evil. A few work as guides out of Port Nyanzaru. Others enter the jungle in small groups to hunt grungs and goblins for their own purposes.

Sooooo, what's the story here? Are what were the "Tabaxi people" now Chultans?

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Yes

The Tabaxi tribe and the tabaxi race are both still official canon for The Realms. This was discussed in Dragon+ Magazine issue 11, section 16 titled "Lore you should Know." This article was published in 2016.

Within, the addition of the Tabaxi race to Volo's Guide to Monsters is discussed, as well as looking at the history and development of the race and their name from older versions of Dungeons and Dragons. The article specifically calls out the existence of the Tabaxi tribe (always written with a capital T) and the tabaxi race (lowercase t) and how they knew this could cause a bit of confusion. Here are a few relevant quotes:

Tabaxi with a capital T is the ancestral name of one of a number of human tribes that traveled east to Faerûn from across the ocean. The Tabaxi were originally from a continent or island known as Katashaka in some sources, and which is generally assumed to be a separate landmass than the area described by the Maztica Campaign Set. The Jungles of Chult adventure established that the Chultan humans refer to themselves as Tabaxi, being the survivors of intertribal warfare among the emigrating human peoples.

Further confusion about Tabaxi vs. tabaxi is sown by Fires of Zatal, an adventure set in Maztica. In it, there are no Tabaxi[the tribe], but a tabaxi[the race] NPC named Chioptl features prominently.

And, most importantly to answer your question

Ultimately, we settled on using the tabaxi because it offered us more freedom in the design of the race. And although having both tabaxi and Tabaxi in the canon of the Forgotten Realms is confusing, it makes sense for tabaxi to originate from Maztica. This provides the in-world explanation for the similarity of their names: the human Tabaxi named their tribe after the mysterious cat people of Maztica and Katashaka. Also, establishing them as native to that distant land explains why tabaxi are rare across Faerûn in both the past and present.

Emphasis Mine

You can view the full article and all that it discusses about the Tabaxi and tabaxi here

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  • \$\begingroup\$ So I guess fundamentally: are those articles canon? The tone seems pretty informal and behind-the-scenes. \$\endgroup\$ – mattdm Jun 28 at 17:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mattdm while I cannot find an official statement, general consensus seems to be "Dragon Magazine lore about the Forgotten Realms is Canon unless contradicted by 'higher tier' published materials, such as Rulebooks, Adventures, Novels, or statements from Ed Greenwood." \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty Jun 28 at 17:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ I guess this is a good as I'm likely to get (so thanks), but I'm not really convinced... they sure did put a lot of lower-case tabaxi in Tomb of Annihilation! \$\endgroup\$ – mattdm Jun 28 at 19:43
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Yes. Same with the Eshowe and Thinguth, the other tribes of Chult. I'm doing a series on YouTube right now about all the peoples/playable/potentially playable races in that region of Faerûn.

The video on them is here.

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

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    \$\begingroup\$ While it’s totally fine to link to your own material when it is relevant to a question, this is close to a link-only answer, and that’s a problem regardless of whose content is being linked to—we have concerns about link rot here, and while it’s hard to imagine YouTube disappearing, plenty of places that were once hard to imagine disappearing have, in fact, disappeared. Please add a bit more detail to your answer so that it remains a complete, backed-up answer even if your link dies. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jun 25 at 22:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, I have no attention span for video answers... can you summarize the source for "yes"? \$\endgroup\$ – mattdm Jun 25 at 22:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome, and thanks for answering! It's a good idea more details than just a simple "yes". (Such as source material of your answer, where it can be found, how you came to the conclusion, etc) \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Tydryszewski Jun 25 at 22:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already and see the help center or ask us here in the comments (use @ to ping someone) if you need more guidance. Good Luck and Happy Gaming! \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Jun 25 at 23:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ So, attention-span problems aside, I listened to it. :) I do appreciate all the research you put into your podcast, but I'm not sure it really supports your "yes" answer — you go through the editions but note that Tomb of Annihilation is the primary official source for 5E. Given that (as you note) a lot of this has changed over the editions (for better and worse), are you sure this isn't something that's retroactively adjusted? \$\endgroup\$ – mattdm Jun 26 at 1:42

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